Making ‘Get Well Soon’ – (Pt.2)
First draft: Spring / Summer 2009.
In the late 90’s, after having half-engaged in what had been advertised as a ‘creative writing degree’, I took a part-time job in a bookshop so I could focus on writing.
I wrote a lot. A novel about a group of university students suffering under the yoke of their ennui, (boo hoo). A screenplay about the Albanian Mafia controlling the flow of heroin through the Balkans. Lots of obnoxious poetry. Journalism that could loosely be described as ‘gonzo’, only because I was too lazy to try and report anything objectively. After a year or so I decided it wasn’t going to work, and I concentrated on music instead. I kept the dodgy poetry, rehashed it as song lyrics, and sang these in high voice over long songs that you can’t dance to. In that sense, the format of Thumpermonkey Lives!, hasn’t changed much in a decade.
So, at the point I met Ian Baigent through various musical connections, (he plays in a band called Montana Pete, and more recently Hag), I hadn’t written anything seriously for many years. Ian had been carving out a career in editing film for few years, and although he’d had a chance to work on some exciting stuff, he was now beginning to get frustrated.
We both decided it would be fun to try and make a short together, to try and realise a wider creative ambition. We talked about beer-bribing some actors we knew into getting involved, shooting the whole thing hand held with minimal lighting and a tiny crew. This would hopefully offer Ian very different material to cut, and would allow me a second stab at writing seriously. A bit of fun, designed purely to get our heads around the practicalities of making something, no matter how shoddy.
We started brainstorming ideas. We knew we wanted to make something dark, although we were both pretty bored with conventional horror films. We found films like Haneke’s ‘Caché‘ and ‘Funny Games’ quite refreshing.
‘Caché‘ was a film I found especially interesting, albeit because of my potentially incorrect reading of the film which nevertheless stays with me. I had it in my head that the director was stepping into the film and wilfully altering reality in order to present the characters with an emotional conundrum; not in a fantastical way, but in a highly devisive way. In ‘Funny Games‘ a character literally ‘rewinds’ a sequence of violence using a remote control, (difficult to explain out of context if you haven’t seen this film, but it’s an attempt to force the audicence to explore the idea that they become complicit with acts of on-screen violence).
This is where the original idea for ‘The Bath’ came from. We wanted to mke a mystery, where reality was wilfully manipulated, (although not in an explicitly fantastical way). The atmosphere was key, and as the drafts of the screenplay progressed we became more an more comfortable with the idea of making the plot open-ended, concentrating on having the audience feel the piece before they processed it.
Ian and I also found Lars Von Trier’s ‘Antichrist’ very resonant. This atmosphere of the film affected us both, and definitely informed the drafting process.While I’m aware of a dialogue about whether the film should have been made at all, (or more specifically, whether its very existence is gratuitous), I don’t agree that the acts of awful violence it depicts are in and of themselves gratuitous. I think it succeeds in being a true horror film, because even after the Daily Mail baiting sequence of self-mutilation, the motivation of Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character is underpinned by a far more profound instance of emotional violence. I find her motivation much more traumatising than what she does. In that sense, Ian and I felt that we should also be able to make something harrowing that had no violence or explicit material in it at all, as long as the emotional weight was there. Additionally, detractors seem to ignore that it is an intensely beautiful film in places, and we admired that too.
We decided we too wanted to make something beautiful and dark.