He continues: "A lot of filmmakers avoid the edges. And I understand why. But I like having actors have a strong relationship with the edge of the frame. As filmmakers we have to work with the box, you know? We have to work with this picture inside a black box, which is the edges of the cinema screen, and I often like invoking the finality of it rather than pretending it's not there."

Further to the film's visual storytelling, Hooper says he was keen to constantly tread a line between gritty and heightened realism. He wanted it to be a visceral experience, which in part informed his decision to have the actors sing live during the production. "The singing really grounded it in something bodily and physical, but at the same time, the license allowed me to create a more expressionistic universe," he says.

He also wanted to constantly conjure the power of the state, which is exemplified by the massive, damaged warship a group of slaves -- through quite Biblical imagery -- are hauling out of the sea at the beginning of the film. "It's like a wounded animal being brought in and it shows the state is vulnerable, that it can be attacked, that it can be destroyed," he says.

Similarly, there is also the film's very first image, starting underwater, in the dark, before hitting on a tattered, drowned French flag and ascending from the depths. It's an image of revolution, Hooper says. And that idea of ascension was also at play in his visual ideas throughout.

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