We human beings with our opposable thumbs may believe we sit at the top of the evolutionary ladder but regardless of our many accomplishments, the human condition is in fact one of fragility – where accidents, misadventure and disease constantly lurk, threatening to drastically change or end our lives without a moment’s notice. This concept of our intrinsically delicate nature and the associated need to sometimes escape from reality when the going gets tough is beautifully expressed in Anthony Capristo’s wordless poignant short NUMB. Anthony takes DN through the personal inspiration and subsequent visual research which led to this contemplative film about the disparity between body and mind, what is real and what is imagined.
The genesis of this project is a little unusual compared to my previous way of proceeding. I actually am a director and writer/concepter for music videos, commercials and short films. However, sometimes I love playing around with cameras. This year I bought a new one, a Lumix GH4, which is good enough to shoot high quality videos on vacations or little ideas that arise, yet, it did not have an excruciating effect on my wallet. A few weeks later a friend of mine, a young woman, told me about her situation. There sometimes was a pain in her chest, it was hard to describe, she said. She went to several doctors; they told her that everything was fine. Yet, the pain came back, she became nervous, she began trembling. In order to get rid of the pain my friend had managed to let her thoughts escape to a more beautiful place. As you can imagine a mental disorder had been the cause of my friend’s condition, triggered by frustration and stress. However, as soon as she realized the connection, she slowly began feeling better. Today she is doing very well. It was just a phase. The discrepancy between body and mind and the mental escape from reality (escapism) are quite interesting subjects. So I asked her if it would be okay if I visualized her experiences, and she said yes.
I initially realized that words would not be able to describe these kinds of feelings nor would they evoke empathy. Instead I let myself be inspired by paintings and photographs from different eras and art movements such as surrealism. I collected material for weeks until I had accumulated a bulging storyboard. The intent was not to copy any pictures; they were only supposed to give me a sense of the visual style. In order to clarify the discrepancy between body and mind I defined two worlds (body = reality; mind = dream) that sometimes overlap.
I initially realized that words would not be able to describe these kinds of feelings nor would they evoke empathy.
The reality takes place in enclosed spaces, her home and shelter, lonely and isolated from the outside world, a world without movement, literally numb. It is also reflected in the color correction. The only movement comes from a handheld-camera which represents the restlessness of the protagonist. In order to create a contrast, the dream is set in nature, symbolizing freedom and inner peace. However, nature, apart from the central segment, is not just a peaceful place. The grim reality has a way of even entering what is supposed to be one’s haven. Dream and nightmare unite. In nature she is walking around only to counteract the standstill. Just like her thoughts she is circling, unable to find rest.
Shooting & Post
I usually operate very precisely and would never work without a shooting list or schedule. However, in this case I felt it would be sensible to act intuitively. I scouted the locations (all located in the South of Germany, except for the nature pictures in the central part of the film; those were shot on vacation in Norway, Lofoten), created a rough schedule for each set and shot whatever felt right. As a director I try to work cinematographically, but, actually, I’m not a DoP. So this project was perfect to experiment with my new camera. In order to be flexible I used only whatever light was available at the time, a reflector and two lenses (Lumix Leica 25mm 1.4 & Samyang 12mm 2.0).
The shooting time was about 5-6 days, whereas post-production – due to the great work of Gowryrahm Mohan (composer), Victor Haselmayer (editor), Matthias Noe (compositing) and Michael Neumann (colorist) – took us about 4-5 weeks to complete. At this point I would like to thank my wonderful team, especially my girlfriend Selina, who can be seen in the film. Together we produced this film without a single dollar. It, therefore, pleases us even more that we have been nominated for the Video of the Day Award.
There are some upcoming projects, like an exciting sports commercial. I also plan on continuing to work on the screenplay for my new short film. However, for the moment we are thankful that our current project is so well received. Thanks a lot.