© Cédrick Eymenier 1999-2022
Interview with Lodge Kerrigan
By Cedrick Eymenier
Deauville festival (F), Hotel Normandy
September 9, 2005
C : Do you listen to lots of music?
LK : (laughs) All kinds of music : Charlie Parker, I listen to a lot of JS Bach, a lot of cello, Rostropovich...A lot of different music...I like Johnny Cash...
C : Where do you come from? What is your artistic background, how did you come to cinema?
LK : I was always very envious of people having these romantic stories of how they started to make films..like their uncle gave them a super 8mm when they were 7 and they ran around making little movies… but that never happened to me. I wish that it had, but it didn’t ... I was in university and thought that I would go into journalism and at the last minute I decided that I would go to film school instead. I went to the graduate film program at New York University (NYU). I had a very naive idea that fiction was more interesting than real life and I think as I’ve grown older and matured, I’ve realized what a fallacy that really is. If I had to do all over again, i’d be a photojournalist.
C : And what brings you to art?
LK : It's an excellent question but it's a very hard one to answer. I think it comes down to trying to articulate certain ideas and emotions and there is some exhilaration in that... There is real power to that but really...it's just the need to articulate ideas and feelings. I'm repeating myself to some degree, it's a really good question but it's just hard to answer.
C : You said articulate ideas, you studied philosophy, is there a link with your cinema?
LK : I think that a lot of times it's very reductive to try to find these links between... I think there is a link certainly, but I think the reasons why people do things are very complicated and are the result of years of
cumulation of experiences and decisions and it's very hard to pinpoint one area. So yes, …definitively it's related, but I would be very hard-press to tell you how. I remember when I studied philosophy and the reason I left philosophy... I was in a senior seminar and the professor was comparing Wittgenstein in the context of a NY Yankees baseball game. He was a huge baseball fan and I remember it was a sunny afternoon in May and I kept thinking how much more I’d prefer to be at the baseball game than be stuck
inside the classroom. That’s when I realized that an academic life was not for me at all. It's like Marx's book The Poverty of Philosophy, concrete action is more important on some level, I do believe that although I 'm not a Marxist by any stretch of the imagination. But I really do believe...I mean I'm repeating myself...given enough time like Nietszche,… you know the theory of eternal recurrence? He believes that given enough time, everything will repeat exactly as it occurred… well given enough time, I will repeat myself and say the exact same thing over and over again.
C : Yes but maybe that's what most artists do?
LK : I think it is striving to articulate something clearly and specifically, and kind of exercise it from yourself.
C : "Keane" and "Clean, Shaven" are very similar.
LK : Yes, but I think there are a lot differences between the two. With "Clean, Shaven" I was trying to create a subjective experience in what it might be like to suffer from schizophrenia and to have the audience really experience that… to be in the position of somebody who is suffering from schizophrenia… who suffers from different symptoms like auditory hallucinations, disassociative feelings, increased paranoia, increased anxiety, blunting, (which is a symptom where you don’t feel pain in the same way)… and in where Winter is ripping out fingernails and there are close-ups of his face and he’s not reacting…with the idea that if an audience could understand or experience what it would be like… to have those symptoms for 80 minutes then to imagine what it would be like to live one's life that way… to have some compassion as a result, you know,… with Keane even though I still deal with a character who is mentally ill, my real concern was to focus on how one could try to cope with the abduction of one's child. That was the primary focus and I decided to make the head of the character suffer from mental illness because you know again and you're right it’s a common theme that’s in cliché I’ve had friends who’ve suffered from mental illness. I just think we are living in a critical time and it's important to have some compassion. I was really interested in this idea that in western society we come from this assumption of health and that we all expect to be healthybut I think there is a thin line between mental health and mental illness and health and illness in general. I’m kind of amazed the way we are wired that we work as a well as we do I find that amazing so I think part of it comes from a fear of having mental illness fear of suffering from that… trying to have some sense of compassion. Trying to understand what it would be like. I live in New York, I see so many homeless people and I think what if I was homeless and had no one to talk to? How long would it be before my mental health started to deteriorate? Would it be a number of weeks? A week? 2 weeks? If i talked to no one and had no interaction? No one would deal with me and everyone rejected me. That would definitively start to affect my mental health. So that’s why I continued with that theme…to be honest I think it's true for people who create music or film, writers… they deal with common
themes in their work. For myself it’s a way to find the right way to articulate it.
C : You often mention compassion, does it have something to do with religion?
LK : No, I don't believe.
C : Because I thought Lodge Kerrigan sounds Irish?
LK : Yeah I do and I have lived in Ireland for six years as a boy. But I'm not...
C : You do not feel concerned with this?
LK : I would say I'm an atheist but I’m not. If you say you are an atheist then you are taking a definitive position and stating that religion has some significance in your life. Religion has no significance in my life so I don’t even spend the time to debate whether there is a god or not. I don't believe in a god, but it's not even significant for me. But for me that's not the point.
C : The viewer is taken as a witness and has to be his own judge to elucidate...In this last movie, we don't know if Keane has ever had a girl...
LK : In "Clean, Shaven", I think it's suggested very strongly by the end of the movie that he didn’t kill the girl. What it definitively suggested (was) that the police detective (had) no real evidence for it.
C : The spectator is at the same place as the policeman
LK : There is a prejudice against the mentally ill and there’s a bias particularly in the media where you read so many stories about people who suffer from mental illness and it is always in connection to a crime or act of violence. And Statistically, they are no more violent than anyone else in society ...so why is that the case? so really by putting an audience in that perspectivehopefully it was to address any feelings of bias or prejudice that they have… That they have to confront that. If they think that Winter killed the girl. Why? There is no evidence for it, and in a court of law you have to have definitive proof… but here the evidence is completely circumstantial and really doesn’t hold water at all. And in “Keane” a lot of interactions I’ve had with people who suffer from mental illness they tell me stories and I’m never quite sure what they are telling me is true or not. It is not that they are lying or being deceitful I just think that the fabrication and delusion is the symptom of their illness. In that regard, I wanted the audience to be in the same position: How do you know? How could you know? So you have to decide for yourself because it is more real.
C : In "Keane", it's almost funny, at least very coincidental that this lady with her daughter is living almost the same story as that of William Keane. They seem to complement each other, or even worse, Keane could be her husband. Why did you choose to make that very explicit kind of "Ying/Yang" relation between Keane and this lady at the Hotel? It's obvious, why?
LK : Because his overlying need is to find a replacement for his daughter. He suffers the worse possible loss, which is the abduction of one's child… and you can never come to terms with that. It's an incredible void you can't fill. And I think it's the same way people suffer from reoccurring nightmares. You suffer a traumatic event, you dream about it over and over again… and in an effort for the subconscious to hange the event, to change the outcome… your mind wants to change the event, so you dream about it over and over in a way to try to change it. And I think that's what Keane does in the movie… he is searching for a way to change what happened to his daughter: the abduction. And the ways he goes about doing that are initially, he tries to find a substitute for his daughter...
(Someone from the restaurant we are in for the interview, came near us to move some tables noisily...)
LK : It's really amazing in life that wherever you go, people come! Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever gone in the street, you just look at something and all of a sudden you turn around and 4 other eople would be looking at the same thing. They can never leave you alone, never! (laughs) ...But in the same way the woman and the daughter become like a ready-made substitute family for him where he could go and start again. And then when it turns out that the mother is going to leave and that she is reuniting with the girl's father, then he decides to abduct Kira (the woman's daughter)… and he goes to the bus station and he literally recreates the abduction. He gives her money for candy like he must have given to Sophie (Keane's daughter) and he watches her go and it's this effort to change the outcome… which he does with Kira, unfortunately not with Sophie.
C : Yes, it's just what you said about having a nightmare every night.
LK : Yeah and life comes in constant cycles… goes back to Nietzsche and eternal recurrence.
C : "I wanna be inside of you" says Claire in Claire Dolan, "I wanna be inside of you" says William in Keane. Is it pure coincidence?
LK : (laughs)
C : Because the subject of your movies seems to be this relationship between daughter and family and the difficulties.
LK : I hadn’t really thought about this. I take your interpretation. It seems fine. Perhaps I should branch out and write different dialogue? (laughs)I think in part it is just the directness. Claire is working as a prostitute at that point and for her it was just a way of seduction:”I want you inside.” It’s a way to make to client feel wanted and needed and when Keane says it, is more of just sexual aggression. The meaning of the words are different. I had not thought that the lines were identical. You know when I end a movie and when I finished a movie I never ever watch it again I leave it behind. So it’s like gone for me. It’s like I got it out and I’m done so I can finally move on. Maybe I need to look at them more and make sure I don’t write the same dialogue in every movie.
C : "Keane" has no added music which is a very radical and efficient decision. The soundtrack is rather raw and brutal which is quite new compared to the 2 previous movies.
LK : There are 2 reasons. First, "Clean, Shaven" is subjective. It is trying to explore that world of different auditory hallucinations which are the major symptoms of schizophrenia. But in "Keane," it's objective, even though the camera is with Keane all the time, there is never subjective shots, there is never room for a subjective play. But the 2nd answer is that the older I get, the more noise there is everywhere… and it's harder and harder to get away from it. It’s like here they come… and the people and their cell phones or the city… you can never get away from it. It's becoming louder and louder and more oppressive and so that just reflects in the work.
C : What is interesting is that with a good sound system for the projection, the soundtrack is loud, sometimes almost unbearable and one can hear so many things.
LK : You know I think it's economic too. I mean… if you are poor, you have less ability to shut out the noise. Especially in NY where there is less and less space and more and more people… and I am sure in other urban environments, it is the same. And you just cannot have any personal space. The only way you can do it is to drown it out with more noise like music or something. But if you just want silence, it's almost impossible to find it. But I do not want silence either honestly; some sounds are really beautiful… just more quiet and calm.
C : What I wanted to say is that in a way the real sound contains so many things, so then it's like if you mix all these sounds on purpose.
LK : Sure, but I mean there is a lot of sound work in Keane…there is a tremendous amount. But just from the perspective of subjective vs. objective. It’s all what you would hear in the environment. It's very layered and there is a lot going on if you pay attention to it. "Keane" is Surround 5.1 and "Clean, Shaven" was mono, but I think ultimately I prefer mono, I love mono, I really do. I think ‘surround’ and stereo is just grossly overrated. There is something great about pure mono, just coming from one source right at you. I really like that. In the US, the Criterion DVD collection is re-releasing “Clean, Shaven.” They are doing a whole new video and sound mastering and we went in to listen to the original mix on the original 35mm mag… and they said “oh it's mono...oh you know we could re-do the sound and it could be in stereo” and I looked at him and just thought “Why would I want to do that?” I know the reason they wanted to do it… because they wanted to get the job and be able to bill all this sound work. But why?, it's so beautiful like this. You know all these records in mono are fantastic... So I said to them "No I’ll just keep the mono” and you could see the guy's face "Arrgh" (laughs)
LK : ...About religion and compassion: the two are not connected man! You don't have to believe in god to be compassionate. In fact perhaps from a philosophical point of view it's more meaningful to be compassionate if there is no reward system for it. So much religion is a reward-based system… if you behave this way you will get a reward at the end of the day. But that devalues your acts. You should do it because there is no reward. Isn’t that more pure on some level? But who gives a shit about purity anyway? There is a great line in an Arab Strap song "there is no such thing as sin" from the "the night before the funeral") and I agree with that. Morality is a human construct and does not exist. There is no such thing as morality. There is just action and that's all there is. There is just behaviour and that's it.
C : In "Keane", there is that beautiful shot when Keane lies down on the grass stuck between a traffic jam. Would you comment this shot?
LK That's my least favourite shot in the movie. I think it's the least sophisticated of all. I think beginner filmmakers starting out in filmmaking are really concerned about the image and the frame. To me, it is less sophisticated. I think the more I make films, the more it should be about how you don’t notice the image and how it doesn’t stand out. The whole purpose is to have it be part of a whole and have it fit so you do not notice it. As a result that shot is completely opposed to every other shot of the movie and it stands out. And as a result of standing out, it is not sophisticated at all. I think it is the most obvious shot and the most nice framing. As a photo it would be fine but in a movie, it feels staged (or) composed. You feel the photographer.. you feel their presence too much. For me, it is my least favourite. If I did it again I would change it. That is the only shot in the movie that I’d change. I like him lying there but there's something false… not in the performance and not in the action, but in the representation. People love that shot but it's my least favourite.
C : It reminds photograph by Llorca di Corcia.
LK : Oh I love this. As a still photograph it would work beautifully, but in the movie, it is different.
C : Do you have any photo work?
LK : I used to shoot some for Purple and I would love to do some more.
C : But don't you do some for your own?
LK : I do. I took a lot of pictures where my mother lives in a fishing island in the gulf of the St Lawrence River in New Brunswick, Canada. It’s a small fishing community where she was born and grew up. She moved back 20 years ago to teach and now she is retired.
C : It sounds like the decor of "Clean, Shaven"
LK : It's exactly where I shot "Clean, Shaven". I take a lot of photographs because the island is changing. It’s becoming more and more modern and so I wanted to record the sense of that life.
Ck In "Clean, Shaven" many shots reminded me of wooden houses photographed by Walker Evans in the 1930's.
LK That's exactly what I am recording. They are getting replaced…(by)cheap aluminium siding. It's interesting because it's relatively a working-class community. A lot of people in the middle class want to appear to be poor in terms of style. They wear ripped jeans… kids look like they live in the streets. It is a hip thing for the middle class but the working class and the poor always want to look wealthy. Right. They never want to look poor…so they take these beautiful houses and they put aluminium siding because they look ‘new’. But for me, aesthetically I hate the aluminium siding. I am trying to get a photographic record of houses on the island and the way it was for decades but is now rapidly changing.
C : Maybe a last one?
LK : Oh you can go on. I’m having fun. This is the best interview so far. I am enjoying it!
C : Walking around in Deauville and one can easily find some luxurious shops like Louis Vuitton and so on… and Cannes is the same thing...
LK : Deauville is like Cannes but without the people. There is no one here (laughs)
C : How do you live in opposition between the subject of your movies and all these festivals?
LK : It's all surreal.
C : Yes, so how do you react to this?
LK : Because it's life man! What do you mean? How do I live it? I just get up and I do it (laughs)...I think about that all the time, it' so surreal…but…when you think about your life in that abstract way, no matter who you are or where you are, it's all surreal. It's all like, "how the fuck did I get here?" Right? Where am I? But its fun… it's enjoyable… it’s a trip. It’s important to enjoy it…it's great. Where else? I am by the beach… I get to eat well, drink lots of wine, and talk about movies… It's fun.