August 11, 2013
Editor's Note: Our amazing friends over at Bitch Flicks (The radical notion that women like good movies) have a syndicated column dedicated to Seed&Spark female filmmakers. "Like the Water" was originally published on Bitch Flicks on August 1st, 2013.
Like the Water, DP: Eve M. Cohen, Dir. Caroline von Kuhn
Artists in every discipline play out our personal neuroses in our work, but there are few outlets as indulgent a playground as film.
My most pleasurable experience of a contemporary film in a theatre last year was Leos Carax’s Holy Motors, which I saw twice on the big screen. It raises the ultimate question of identity near and dear to my heart: is human existence a truth formed through an evolution of identities building on one another until we are whole? Or merely a series of empty performances conformed to our given circumstances? Do we evolve, dropping deeper into our Self with each relationship we enter or instead chip away until only an empty shell remains?
Carax houses these dark, looming questions in a delightful succession of dream-like vignettes. The film transpires over the course of one day in which M. Oscar (Denis Lavant) takes a series of appointments, each a distinct, if not surreal, homage to film and literature. We, like M. Oscar, get lost in the act, re-emerging to digest the one and prepare for the next: left to return to the question of his, of our, identity.
My first attempt at filmmaking was a collective autodidactic pursuit of the medium with a team of five other female artists. We set out to tell a story of self-identity and the even bigger struggle of self-acceptance in one’s 20s. We set out to tell a story of the imperfection of the Female. We set out to tell a story of that first taste of a contemporary’s mortality, which leaves youth grappling with grief in its rawest, ugliest, truest form. We set out to teach ourselves the craft of filmmaking through this story.
What results is our Like the Water.
Caitlin FitzGerald in Like the Water, DP: Eve M. Cohen, Dir. Caroline von Kuhn
The inspiration for our film stemmed from a deeply formative shared experience Caitlin FitzGerald, my lead actress and co-writer, and I had of losing childhood friends in our early 20s. We both found that encountering death at a young age – especially that of a contemporary – provoked a seismic shift in the way we came to understand the world. We not only shared experiences of grief but had turned to writing in a therapeutic attempt to capture and express something ultimately inchoate: the memory of a life.
The 20s prove to be a time of extraordinary growth – a fuller awareness, a deeper appreciation, of the world and the self. It was more or less around this transitional chapter that we six artists met and committed to exploring, perhaps exploiting, iterations of our story. One of the universal feminine, in a way that film never allows the feminine to be portrayed. The film that results is a product of this particular chorus of women’s voices. We discovered a shared urgency for us to tell this story with these women that summer because our voices were right for it at that moment.
On the set of Like the Water, photo by Lori Traikos
So we wrote a script, raised some money, cast our friends and family (yes, my parents are in my movie, as are many of our parents), assembled a great crew and went up to Maine. A very generous community of Mainers welcomed us into their fold and set us up to pull off this adventure. Within 16 months we had conceived, written, funded, shot, edited and premiered our first film – most of us first-timers in our positions.
With age does come wisdom, or, at the very least, a more weathered, cynical perspective. Maybe it was exactly this naivety that ultimately allowed us to pursue such an ambitious endeavor with such uninhibited sincerity and gusto. For the gift of directing my first film, I will forever be indebted to this group of women – for indulging me in the pursuit of our story.
And I look forward to this continued pursuit with the next.