Director Graham Jones explains to Film Ireland his thinking behind creating the animated Davin in advance of World Suicide Prevention Day.
“All of the characters are in cars,” I told the casting director Ali Coffey about the rotoscoped movie we were going to make. “They’re on their way to the memorial of a friend and family member who actually ended his life in a car. That’s the space in which he became emotionally trapped, the last place he was, the place he felt he couldn’t get out of – so for the entire film, the characters and ultimately the audience are kind of trapped there too. My hope is that by the time this journey ends, we have started to feel his presence a little bit…”
If we were going to spend an entire movie in vehicles – I reasoned to myself – it meant that every single performance had to be not only strong, but transportive. The entire cast had to be excellent. That was the reason I was meeting Ali. Over the next month, she would sleep with my screenplay under her pillow and source the perfect ensemble of Irish actors. There were no principal roles for them to revolve around – no one key part that was more important than any other. If there was a main character, so to speak, it was Davin and he was no longer with us. This was a character piece, forty mourners large, whereas in the past I had sometimes been stronger on plot.
I asked each actor to stick closely to the lines I had written, but beyond that feel free to develop their own sense of their late friend and family member and their relationship to him. I wilfully encouraged them to do their own thing. It was like watching them create a ghost. Suicide is something everybody thinks about to some degree, in the same way we all think about mortality or love or whatever. It’s just a question of the extent to which it touches us. Sometimes it touches us very deeply. One of the actors told me that he knew, whether directly or indirectly, no less than twenty six people who had taken their own life in his native rural county. Indeed, I’ve had difficult years myself.
However, trying to figure why I actually made the movie is not straightforward. For one thing, it’s not just a film about suicide and grief. It’s also about how we are remembered, or how we are defined. In the modern world, it sometimes feels like we are defined to a great extent by others. We can’t be immune to that world, not completely. So I also wanted every scene in the film to be a sort of ‘tip of the iceberg’ type moment. Where we get a little bit of information, but the rest is submerged. That way, the audience has room to forge their own Davin.
When it came time to shoot the film, I had tailored a visual style specifically for it. Somewhere between hand-drawn animation and rotoscoping and disintegrating streams of energy consciousness. That place we inhabit at times of birth or death. When we realise that we are part of something larger, yet something transient. I hope that it speaks to people. Since it went live at the weekend, over 37,000 people have watched it. I hope you will spread the word in advance of World Suicide Prevention Day next month. I hope you meet Davin along the way.