Saturday 4 June 2016

An interview with Monica Demes, writer/producer/director, Lilith's Awakening (2016)

Monica Demes
I caught up with Monica Demes, writer/producer/director of the enigmatic and visually stunning vampire movie Lilith’s Awakening, prior to its official premiere at the ‘Dances With Films’ Festival in Hollywood later this month. 

DEoL: How did you arrive at the subject matter for the film?
MD: Through Transcendental Meditation (TM). I used it to dive into my unconsciousness and came up with one of the scenes - the one where Art meets the mysterious woman on the dark road. After I came to that scene through intuition, I asked my intellect - why did I write that scene? What does it mean? And I came to the conclusion - I wrote that scene ‘cause I was tired of seeing women raped in films, especially in horror. In those kind of films they are usually portrayed as victims. So I said, what if it’s reversed? What if something really bad happens with the rapist instead? That was the seed of the entire screenplay. 

DEoL: The film includes lots of references to Dracula in character names. Was this a gentle homage or were you saying something more serious about that text in the context of the film?
MD: I used the line - “what if…” meaning - what if instead of a prince of the darkness, that seduces Lucy and takes her away from her beloved Jonathan and society - it is a woman in his place, a princess of darkness? What if …that princess lives inside Lucy’s head? In her dreams? What if she was Lucy’s shadow, her hidden part? Vampire tales are all about sexual repression. 

DEoL: How much should this be read as a feminist film? The women are strong and the men are, well, deadbeats (which I know isn't a definition of feminism, but...)?
MD: On one hand we have a controller father, a passionate lover (the pretty bad boy Art) and the loving husband, Jonathan (he cares about her in his own way) - on the other hand, we have Lucy - an oppressed woman who works in a gas station (symbol of man’s land) who is unhappy in her marriage and who will never grow under the shadow of the father. We see in one scene that she is afraid to go to the woods. The woods that represent the unknown, the lack of protection and the wild. She knows if she goes there, her world might never be the same. It’s a very symbolic film. And what does Lucy finds in those woods? Nothing but her own self. Her dark side, her hidden part. And the more she connects with what she tries to hide, the stranger she gets. She will feel alive again as much as she embraces her dark side and experiences her true self. The film is all about connection with the shadow. And it’s not that men are deadbeats. In the film. Jonathan wants a wife that will support him and love him, help him get a better job by having a social life with his boss, and have a kid. But the film is perceived from Lucy’s perspective and she can’t connect with him. She can’t love him because he can’t make her happy, and never will. I guess she is more into biting beautiful necks at night, than raising a family, that’s all. And I would say even more... deep inside of her, she has always been different. Different from what surrounds her. Different from what’s expected from her. Different from everything she knows in that small town. The vampire in this film is used as a metaphor. 

Demes with mentor David Lynch
DEoL: So briefly, how has the David Lynch MFA Program been of assistance in bringing Lilith's Awakening to life? Was this an idea that you'd had for some time or did it evolve within the Program? 
MD: No, I went with an empty mind and wanted to feel the energy of the place to write there. It was a cold place with huge distances, puritan and conservative and people didn’t talk much or connect - with that landscape I knew I had to build a vampiric story. The MFA was important because it was the first time I was using TM in my creative process. And David (Lynch) gave me great feedback when I was having a repetitive problem with the screenplay. He went right into the grain, and opened my eyes towards the process of storytelling, on how our brain functions as an antenna - perceiving the ideas that surround us and transforming it into images that will shape the story. 
DEoL: And finally, what do you think about the finished film? Equally importantly, what feedback have you had from David?
MD: I love the film, hahaha. But I am subjective. About David, he didn’t see the film yet, but I hope he does shortly.

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