Moving its audience through the five stages of grief, Christopher Lutterodt-Quarcoo’s black and white docu-drama Hertz skilfully manipulates picture and sound to present the symptoms of Musical Ear Syndrome and Phantom Sounds as the result of rapid hearing loss as experienced by its afflicted protagonist. Christopher joins us to discuss how reactions to real life case studies inspired him to make Hertz and how production problems ultimately informed the film’s style.
Hertz is a documentary-drama based on the symptoms of Musical Ear Syndrome & Phantom Sounds, developed as a result of rapid hearing loss. The film takes the audience through the five stages of grief during the loss of hearing based on real case studies, portraying the constant battle between reality and memory.
The idea to make this documentary came about through the process of me writing a fictional narrative based on my cousin who became deaf at a young age, highlighting his isolation from the world around him. It was through research that I came across the condition Musical Ear Syndrome / Phantom Sounds and that’s where I discovered all of these amazing case studies and the fact that a lot of people didn’t know about the condition. What really committed me to do the documentary was the range of emotional responses people had to the condition. It brought up the subject of nostalgia, alienation, and difficulty of communication. It was everything my original script wanted to address but now the facts and stories were already there, I just needed to tell them.
The facts and stories were already there, I just needed to tell them.
With the setting of the story almost being a window into the character’s mind, my major consideration was the representation of the phantom sounds, which became shadows or silhouettes that visually look familiar but which maybe had certain defining details that were missing or slightly inaccurate. . . which is the reality of memory, it’s not always as precise as the live moment, and sometimes is even exaggerated.
For filming I used a Canon 5D MK III, photographic roll paper and a collection of props gathered from friends and family all with the help of my Art Director Efe Igbinadolor. From beginning to end Hertz took roughly two to three months to complete – much longer than anticipated, primarily due to production issues which at the end of the day are all part of the process. It was during this overwhelmingly challenging period that I was inspired to produce Hertz in its current style, where everything that would normally hinder a director became an assets in storytelling. That has somewhat defined my approach to my work in general, particularly when undertaking the role of a storyteller. In this case every missing component or disadvantage transformed into an asset towards the narrative process, so the recognition the film has received is very humbling and encouraging.