Neolithic Patchwork Quilt introduces Herman, a husband and father of two who is coming to the end of chemotherapy. As a result of his illness, he undergoes an existential crisis. His wife, Felicia, endeavours to help him cope by practicing mindfulness. However, a tragedy involving his wife realigns Herman’s focus on what matters most.
Anthony Assad met up with writer/director Paul Heary and producer Victor McGowan ahead of the film’s screening at the Cannes Short Film Corner on 20th May.
Could you tell us a little about the thinking behind Neolithic Patchwork Quilt?
Paul: The patchwork quilt is meant to be a metaphor for comfort. The inspiration came from the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy world. There’s a comparison in the film between primitive life and modern life. We see a lot of comfort in the film – hospitals, cars… the comforts of civilisation. But on the other hand, we see disasters on the news; we see a newsflash on Herman’s phone. So there’s a whole area of talk about how that can distort our view of the world, how it can cause more stress. That’s compared to a simpler primitive world, a world where we didn’t have much comfort, a world where we didn’t know what was happening outside of our own experience. We had much less stress – all we had to look after was our own environment.
There’s been some research that found that the stresses of modern life can build up the hormone cortisol in the brain which causes mental stress and anxiety and can impinge our ability to deal with situations. Mindfullness is a way of reducing cortisol levels.
The narrative deals with a lot of weighty themes for a short film…
Paul: Well, it went through a few drafts. During its development I was really inspired by Adaptation. With film, it’s a given that it’s a visual medium and it’s about minimal dialogue and isn’t introspective. When I saw Adaptation, it really inspired me to think outside those boundaries and go on a creative buzz. That and the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy are really the inspiration behind the film.
Victor: I got the script more or less at the final stage and that whole mindfulness-based cognitive therapy was something I was quite taken with when I read it. There’s line in the film where the therapist says to Herman no-one’s supposed to be worried about events that are happening thousands of miles away. That’s an interesting point.
When we’re introduced to Herman, the main character, he appears to be going through a crisis of body and mind provoked by a question mark over his health.
Paul: His fear is natural in terms of his cancer – but again the mindfulness is meant to be cathartic for him and help him to stop worrying about things.
Is it safe to assume you advocate its practice?
Paul: It was the inspiration for the film – one of the scienctific theories behind it I liked was how it can physically change the brain, change the genes in your brain. .
Victor: I tried it. There’s an app called Headspace. The idea is that every day for 10 minutes you are meditating. You can have other options on the app – when you are walking you are being told how to focus on your surroundings. It’s something I’m very interested in.