TWISTED, 14min, Australia, Drama/Thriller
Directed by James Hartley and James Shepherd
After a night with the girl of his dreams, Michael has a story to tell. And a favour to ask...
James Hartley's Director's Statement
"Twisted" very much takes place within Michael's imagination and recollection of events so we looked at films like "Inception" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind". It was a great challenge to grapple with a subjective world view and explore what things are like from Michael's perspective.
I first encountered "Twisted" a few years ago when I found the "The One Sure Thing" collection of monologues at James Shepherd's house. Georgia Symons was the only writer I knew personally but I hadn't read much of her work before. So I read her monologue first and then a few others and was immediately impressed with hers: it had a truly authentic voice to Michael, the main character, and it reeled me in hook, line, and sinker.
Fast forward to November 2012. I get a Facebook message from Georgia saying Dan Prichard wants me to direct the film adaptation of "Twisted". Jackpot. Of all the monologues I could have been asked to direct, this was my favorite.
But how would I recreate the core of what makes "Twisted" so memorable and haunting? What is it for something to 'haunt' the viewer? I imagine, like a ghost, it is there after the time it is supposed to be. It recurs and reoccurs. You mull over it. It stays with you. In part it's because it is incomplete: the monologue ends with a question. The audience has to play the part and choose whether or not they would help Michael or not. "Twisted" prompts a response which makes it last longer in the audience's mind. How would I replicate that sense of possibility in the film?
There's an honesty to "Twisted" that is refreshing and different that you don't encounter normally and that's part of what makes it resonate and haunt. It is true. Authentic. Yet at the same time "Twisted" is filled with deceit: any story that twists must deceive its audience. Fundamentally, "Twisted" is about stories and story-telling. Michael tells a story to Kayley which he is telling to Tom. Michael's success, how he obtains his goals, is dependent on his ability to story-tell. Story-telling is one of the most primitive and primal interactions we have as human beings, which is why the valley and the forest play such an integral role in the film. This is the forest of the Brothers Grimm, of European folktales where humans can be beasts and the trees hum with magic. There is all possibility. There is story. There is dark and there is light.
How much does Michael deceive Kayley and Tom to tell a better story? What is not revealed and left unseen behind the curtain? In a similar way, we hoped to deceive the audience, mirroring this push and pull between truth and fiction in our film-making. How do we show Bluey? How do we show the mother? How do we transition between the forest to Kayley's room or the forest to the back door or the mother's room back to Kayley's room? All effects were done in camera and some that look easy may have been terribly difficult and some that looked difficult may have been simple. There are elements to the process of film-making that I impressed onto the cast and crew not to divulge to anyone outside the film, to keep the magic, to make it haunt.
One of the best secrets is how we get the character of Michael to put on clothes and skin and flesh and step out of the page and onto the screen. I knew we needed a highly intelligent actor to play the wily, intelligent, rough, yet charismatic Michael. He needed to hook people in, charm them, and make them want to follow him. Michael was a fully fleshed character, no, person, that actors sought out to play.
Equally, despite having no lines, we needed a Kayley with a perfect soul. She, in her fragmented parts, shows womanhood in all of its forms: daughter, lover, and mother. She became all women. I described her to people as if she were a goddess: someone perfect and unobtainable. We see only glimpses of her and your mind fills in her perfection for itself.
These were obviously tough calls for our actors. But they were more than capable. Claudio Trovato continues to impress me with his genuineness and sparks of perfect truthfulness in his acting even as I watch his same performance for the thousandth time. I truly hope he will be recognized for his achievement in this film. Laura Fairclough's intensity and sincerity can be summed up with the fact that we shot her crying and didn't use the footage: her power is in her restraint, in her sitting and watching and wanting so much to leap up and smother Michael in her passion but keeping those waves swelling beneath her.
But that's not who they are. That's their secret. Their trick. Their deception. And in that deception they showed you something true and authentic and real. And that's quite scary.