Replete with fountains of gore from its opening moments, Joseph Catté’s horror short Like a Doll, an adaptation of Roland Topor’s monologue Bataille Intime, sees a young women engaged in a deadly pitched battle with a masculine entity. Joseph takes us into his blood soaked production process.

In 2013, I was looking for a project that would allow me to work with Pauline Helly, an actress I knew outside of my professional circle. When she suggested some texts to me that she particularly liked, my attention was caught by the play Bataille Intime, by Roland Topor. I quickly accepted her proposition because it appeared to me challenging for two reasons: First, it was an opportunity to work on an adaptation. I had to inject my personal ideas and appropriate the text to myself without betraying the author’s work. As the text is a theatre monologue, I had to maximize the features of cinema (suggestion by the frame, editing, visual-effects) to avoid a flat illustration and give meaning to the work of transposition. Secondly, I wanted to try my hand at the horror genre to shake up my habits as my previous creations were mostly inspired by musicals and sixties airiness. To keep my visual codes within this new framework, I turned to the Argento’s Giallo, which depicted vintage and colorful violence. On a more trivial point, I was also excited about playing with gallons of fake-blood!

As the main character is mentally ill, it would have been easy to fall into caricature. To avoid that pitfall, we especially agreed not to play madness (as you can see in Terry Gilliam’s movies). It seemed more appropriate to present an elegant attitude and to highlight schizophrenia thanks to the editing contrast between the reality and the flashbacks.

We shot for four days in September 2013 with two DSLRs; the Canon 5DMkII and Canon 6D. In terms of lighting, we simply used neon lights and bedside lamps. Due to the self-produced nature of the film, we had a reduced crew (which went from one to three people), little time or equipment. We also had to shoot many scenes in a bathroom, which is a very small space. It was not always easy to get two actresses and two cameramen in, not counting the light setup. Moreover, the actresses had to remain lying for hours in cold and smelly fake-blood (consisting of tomato sauce) in a abandoned hotel without hot water for rinsing…

Post-production lasted almost six months since I was working alone on the edit, color grading, visual effects and sound. As I am a graphic designer by training, I was able to greatly retouch the image by adjusting the light, the appearance of the blood, the position of certain objects in the frame, the camera moves, or integrating smoke, etc..

I’m proud to have been able to make Like a Doll in these conditions and I hope people enjoy it. For my part, I look forward to exploring new genres in the years to come.

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