Cloud of Skin is my first feature film. It was produced in collaboration with the Dublin-based Experimental Film Society collective, of which I am a member, and has in common with all my work that it is experimental in form.
It’s a narrative film, telling the story of a man, played by Dean Kavanagh, who is haunted by the memory of a blind woman with visionary powers who obsessively revisits the sites of their love affair. But it doesn’t unfold as a traditional narrative, it plays out more like an immersive dream experience in which normal perceptions of time are suspended.
My films are guided by a sense of exploration: the exploration of an atmosphere, an emotion, a series of techniques. They are experiments into what cinema is capable of and what I am capable of achieving with cinema.
In making Cloud of Skin a ‘first’ feature, I wanted to go back to silent cinema and explore my relationship with it or with certain aspects of it. Most obviously, the film is almost entirely without dialogue – in fact, the sound is comprised entirely of a soundscape created by the composer Karen Power. But what really interested me, looking at films by people like Jean Epstein or Frank Borzage, is the way some masters of silent cinema were able to take the simplest stories and use them to generate the most extraordinary emotion through imagery and rhythm, to the point that the subject matter transcended itself and almost took on the power of music.
Without imitating silent film techniques, I wanted to echo the iconic power of these movies. So I took this very simple, very dark love story and used it to create something that’s really about the experience of sight, touch, perception.
The powerful onscreen presence of the three actors that appear in it and the extremely atmospheric locations we used, as well as Karen’s extremely compelling soundtrack, are the crucial elements in weaving this spell. And I wanted to employ almost all the technologies I’ve been working with since I started making films in the ’90s in specific ways that hopefully resonate through contrasting very modern-looking DSLR imagery with slightly dated, almost home-movie DV or Super-8 footage. Using different visual textures has always been crucially important in my films and these ones speak to recent memory – and, hence, forgetfulness – in quite an evocative way.
Cloud of Skin screens on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 18.30 at the IFI as part of Irish Focus, a focus on new Irish film and filmmakers.
Maximilian Le Cain will participate in a post-screening conversation with Dean Kavanagh.
Tickets are available here or from the IFI Box Office or on 01 679 3477