Ghosts In The Theater

When writing The Little White Bird this passed fall there were two films I kept in mind, John Cassavetes’ Opening Night and Andre Techine’s Rendez-Vous.  Like The Little White Bird, both films are a character study of a woman performer undergoing an emotional crisis on the subject of their own mortality.  However, I was concerned with making the character Louise’s journey as dramatic and powerful as either performance in Rendez-Vous or Opening Night without entering the realm of the supernatural.  Both Techine and Cassavetes implement ghostly apparitions into their narrative to better flesh-out their characters crisis.  Such a mechanism is very powerful in their knowledgeable hands, but I feared that it would detract from the sense of journey in The Little White Bird.

Unlike Opening Night and Rendez-Vous, The Little White Bird has a physical journey to match the emotional journey of the films lead.  Grant it, the journey Louise makes isn’t physical in terms of ground covered, but in what drugs she puts into her body and the people with whom she interacts in such a state that is reflexive of her emotional turmoil.  It seemed that the representation of a ghost on screen in my narrative would detract from that and further complicate a short film that was already very complicated.  Instead, a scene was written in which the title character Louise finally does break down in an empty theater, and has an exchange with the spirit of her father.  The exchange I mention does not exist in the final film, it functioned as a direction to actress Emma Arrick so that she would project her emotions and resolution into the film.  The effect works, yet manages to avoid retreading the ground covered by Cassavetes and Techine, as well as simplifying the films complex character arch.

The idea behind writing this piece was to pay respect to two fantastic filmmakers, and also to explain a healthy give and take relationship between filmmaker and filmgoer.  In the end, all I can see that we have in common is a few thematic concerns.

-Robert Curry

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Filed under Winter 2012

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