The centerpiece of tonight’s program of short films about “Doomed Love” is a sumptuous documentary called The Devilles, which tells the true and complex love story of a burlesque stripper and her punk rocker husband.
As the exquisite cinematography brings us deeper and deeper into the stylized rockabilly world that the two have constructed over 25 years together, we are mesmerized by the triumph and the tragedy of their love.
Rooftop’s Dana Arbel spoke to the film’s Danish director Nicole Nielsen Horanyi about the distinctive visual style she used to express the truth about her characters, and how Americans are more puritan about their documentaries than Europeans.
Rooftop Films: Give a brief description of the film for those who haven’t seen it.
Nicole Nielsen Horanyi: It’s a true love story set in an unreal world of old glamour and rock’n’roll.
RF: What intrigued you about the relationship between Teri Lee Geary and Shawn Geary?
NNH: The strong and complicated love they share. Their ability to construct a time bubble around their whole life and family and sticking to it consistently.
RF: Would you call the film a documentary, or were elements of it staged?
NNH: For me it’s without a doubt a documentary. The “wrapping” may make it feel and look more like a fiction, but I’ve been very true to the reality of their relationship. Parts have been lightly staged, but not in terms of what they should say or feel. It was more a matter of research, to know where and when the action would unfold and then put the camera there…before it actually started.
RF: Do you think their retro lifestyle still has a place in modern society, or does it seem dated?
NNH: I have so much respect for Teri and Shawn’s lifestyle. It takes courage to keep up the continuity of it. I believe there should be a place for that kind of retro lifestyle. Teri and Shawn are very vivid appreciators and interpreters of a great period of pop culture.
RF: The film is lit and shot beautifully. What was done to ensure the lustrous quality of it?
NNH: My ambition was to make the film an aesthetically beautiful experience, but at the same time not to compromise the story.It was very important for me to capture the feeling and mood of the characters visually.
We decided to shoot most scenes in pretty controlled environments, so we pre-lighted the locations as often as possible. But I think the real work was in pre-production with my cinematographer Laust Trier-Moerk. We spend a lot of time preparing and developing the visual style and method to obtain it with.
RF: Are you a full-time filmmaker? If not, what else do you do?
NNH: Yes, I’m a full-time filmmaker.
RF: Tell us about what else you are currently working on.
NNH: I’m juggling several projects, because it takes so long to finance documentaries, but I´m really excited about this new project that I´m developing (with the same crew from The Devilles). It’s a fictional story about a father/daughter relationship. I want to mix documentary into it, so it will be shot in real environments among real people. It takes place in the rockabilly scene in Sweden.
RF: What excites you about screening your film at Rooftop Films?
NNH: It’s a very different experience to screen the film with an American audience, compared to an European. I was just at Silverdocs in Washington and that was so much fun. I find it interesting (and nerve-racking) to hear an American audience’s questions to the film. The American documentary tradition is quite different from the Danish. You use a lot of interview and voice over. Plus I have a feeling that you are slightly more puritan in your approach of the genre.