Simon Becks was here.
Lens Based Media
In the last couple of years I have managed to find my place within the cultural landscape. By treading a meandering road, I touched upon Fine Art going into curating and now have arrived at directing and writing for film. I can genuinely say that I am where I belong.
Through my projects I discovered a gravitational pull to stories surrounding people that are in a process of synthesis with themselves. They are in one way or another dealing with their (idiosyncratic) desires and learn that not wanting the ‘right’ thing might be alright too. I recently read an inspiring collection of short stories written by the Japanese post-war writer Taeko Kono named Toddler-hunting & Other Stories. The female protagonists in these stories experience desires so strong, that it topples their lives and their carefully curated and constructed circumstances. The protagonists are driven to see what will happen if they pursue their desire to its end, and take themselves into this new uncharted territory; a new reality of their creation. What's more, this new reality, despite seeming radical and jarring, also feels more true then their previous lived-in reality. That previous reality, so easily destroyed or left, only enhances the potential of their new radically chosen life. In short, the stories I find myself drawn to are those that lay bare the destruction and renewal that freedom and desire can cause.
Growing up as gay kid, I can imagine similar frequencies were experienced. Hidden desires, deemed to be unwanted, yet knowing on a personal and spiritual level that there is no other way than to chase what you feel, even if others disapprove.
Equipped with this knowledge, and the overall experience I have gained in filmmaking over the last 1.5 years I intend to finish my short film Cave Play for my graduation project.
WHAT I WANT TO MAKE
Cave Play is a short fiction film of 22 minutes, where the first three days I shot a year ago. Due to COVID-regulations and scheduling issues I never managed to finish the shoot.
The idea for the film sprang into existence after receiving a birthday gift. The gift was an indexation box called THE BOX OF HUMAN EMOTIONS, and claimed to have gathered every human emotion known to mankind, through time and space, collected. Jealousy. Anger. Awumbuk. One that caught my eye was L’appel du vide - a feeling coined by French but is in English also referred to as The Call of The Void or the High Place Phenomenon.
Originally the word was used to describe the unsettling feeling one might have while standing atop a high building, or another type of precipice. Though you might not want it, an urge starts to manifest to jump. Later on the term has grown to include all types of wondrous destructive urges and fantasies, like jerking the steering-wheel of the car your driving, while on a speedway or dropping your keys in that dangerously wide sewer-grate. Personally I feel it most when I see a dangerously pregnant woman, I become very aware of how not to punch her in the belly. Or in the theatre to stand up and disrupt the performance by joining in.
It’s important however that one does not actually want to do it, or at least, they don’t in the end. Nor are the people experiencing it depressed or otherwise psychologically impaired.
April Smith, an associate professor of psychology at the Miami University in Ohio proposes the explanation that the brain sends an alarm signal in such situations; be careful. This could lead you to take a precaution such as taking a step back or being more aware of your surroundings in general. After this instinctual danger reaction passes the more deliberative thinking process kicks in and you start to think, why did I just take a step back. I am fine. Your brains basically interpret your more bodily reactions inaccurately and therefore a new type of awareness arises.
In CAVE PLAY we follow Hamara, played by Hadewych Minis (Borgman by Alex Van Warmerdam 2013), a middle-aged director’s assistant that has just broken up with her relationship. During a jog she discovers a cave that is instantly drawn to. The darkness is impenetrable. Throughout the film we see here synthesising with her desire to disappear in the cave. While this process is happening she strikes up a friendship with the leading lady from the ensemble she works at, named Francys. Where Hamara is always the audience member, Francys takes up all the limelight. Throughout the film they will eventually shift roles until Hamara will finally experience the sensation of being actually seen, before disappearing forever.
The film deals quite closely with the idea of l’appel du vide, as Hamara acts on this irrational or idiosyncratic idea that has taken hold of her. Questions surrounding the agency of desire, and the freedom to do things that are destructive are thrown around, just as the notion of the gaze. What does it mean to be seen? It’s important that the actresses in the film are women, as I often find the portrayal of women to be too moralistic and I find great pleasure in seeing women choosing their own truth, regardless of how that might affect others.
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO MAKE IT
As mentioned earlier, the first three days of shooting already happened in the beginning of 2022. A script, production plan and producer and cast are already locked. We found support from the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds and AFK, and are awaiting the reply from Limburgs Film Fonds (we’ll hear before the end of 2022). When we know if this fund pulls through or not, we can start planning a shooting schedule. Biggest obstacle might prove the availability of the actors, as they are often occupied with theatre tours and other films.I expect to need three to four more days of shooting to finish the film.
In the meantime I have reworked the script. This rework has been informed by incorporating the knowledge I have gained throughout the year. The coming weeks I intend to spent more time on tightening up the script.
WHY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE IT
The project was supposed to be my solo-fiction debut, but in the meantime I managed to shoot another short film, THE CRISISIST’S. CAVE PLAY however is dear to me. Especially now, while preparing for my thesis, I start to appreciate the sentiment of the film a lot more.
My thesis will be on cruelty and its relation to stupidity as well as intelligence. It explores the idea of an intelligent or pure cruelty and tries to find a place for cruelty as a vehicle for purgatory transgressions. What might the relationship between injury and fact be? To pain and truth? Uncomfortability and learning? During my research my love for characters that act according to their own unbending and rigorous belief, without adjusting their course if they know it might offend or hurt others, has only grown.
I think especially now, in a climate where everyone is supposed to act and even think in desirable ways, where wondering out loud might offend or hurt, it is important to tell stories of those who don’t. To show (female) characters that are truthful to themselves, have grown resilient and unbending. I personally thrive with uncomfortability. I want to be the dumbest person in the room. During my time at the Rietveld Academy, my teachers were constructive assholes. That's something I aspire to be too.
The medium of film is something I now feel comfortable in. Something I want to understand. Be able to do well. Excel in. It seems to me that for now, it should be my sole focus and avoid spending time on more installation or fine-art oriented filmmaking.
WHO CAN HELP YOU AND HOW
As mentioned before, I already have most of my team with me. I’m shooting with my DOP Jasper de Kloet. Production company is FIXY/DOXY and I know the actresses personally.
I am still in need for a location scout that might help us locate the perfect cave. In regards to the educational team here at the Piet Zwart Institute, I intend to use the expertise from everyone to help me mostly with finalising the script and effective shortlisting. After that is done I can involve everyone in the (long) editing process that is waiting for me.
After everything is shot, we will apply for a separate fund that will help us spent more time and money on the post production (from edit, to grade, sound design, adr and vfx). We expect to get the fund, but nothing is sure in life.
RELATION TO PREVIOUS PRACTICE
In the last year I’ve explored similar themes in my work. The latest video clip that I shot for S10 ft. Froukje - NOOIT MEER SPIJT, with DOP Martijn van Broekhuizen (Narcosis 2022 by Martijn de Jong) also dealt with the portrayal of women in a position of power. An unbending, unyielding portrayal of them. Also the idea of playing a role is something I see recurring in my work. In the video clip through the usage of wigs, but also in THE CRISISISTS where a young woman tries to figure out what role she wants to play as she gradually is taken in by a group that might be an overly-convinced group of researchers, or maybe a cult.
During my time in Peru, where I worked on something under the tutelage of
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Memoria 2021) in a film lab in the Amazon, I eventually shot something concerning two young women (end of high school) that communicated with each other through lies, stories and other little plays that they would rehearse. This meta-fictional approach I find riveting to see because it has a sense of honesty within the clearly fictionalised world and relates well to my previous work.
I’m currently working on a new script A KIND OF EMPTYING which is about a couple that, after a drunken night, stands on the precipice of doing a partner switch for the night. Eventually they back down and joke about it the day afterwards. But after a few days the women in the relationship phone each other to re-arrange a new moment for this subversion to occur. On the day the switch was supposed to happen, one couple didn't show up. The woman prompts her husband to get in the car and drive to the home of the other couple. When they arrive they find out the home is empty. Did they just miss the other couple and are they on their way to their house? Or is something else amiss. The couple wanders the streets in the hope to find them, but as they walk the memory of the partner switch disappears., but what remains is that feeling of ‘something needs to happen’. The woman and the man walk through the dark hoping something might occur, and it doesn't matter to them if they have to become victim or perpetrator to make it happen. This project deal a lot with the L’appel du vide too, but in a more mysterious tone even.
RELATION TO A LARGER CONTEXT
In my projects I often find inspiration in desires or thoughts people usually don't feel comfortable to address publicly. I find this a helpful rule of thumb while writing and developing ideas.
I also take inspiration from a wide array of media and people such as Michael Haneke, Lars von Trier, Camille Paglia, Jordan Wolfson, Chris Burden, Maggie Nelson, Dennis Cooper, Taeko Kono and many others. (for more information see annotated bibliography)
WHAT IS YOUR TIMETABLE
Until I know if we are able to shoot the film (depending on the funding I might get) I will focus on continuing developing the script. I will do this in tandem with shortlisting and location-scouting.
After we have the go -- I shall focus on directing-preparations and more talks with the team as we’re kicking it in to high gear.
I intend to shoot between the end of February and the beginning of April.
Afterwards I need a month or two to work on the post production. I could have everything done by the end of June.
Nelson, Maggie - ‘The Art of Cruelty’
A compendium of thoughts, works and texts on cruelty. Asks questions if image-making of cruelty make us part of it. Not afraid to break open taboo, whilst being inquisitive and interested in not stepping over into idiot-cruelty.
Paglia, Camille - ‘Provocations’
A manifest to fearless inquiry into whatever. Breaking open age-old taboos and lifting her status up as a provocateur pur sang.
Buruma, Ian - ‘Theater of Cruelty’
In Theater of Cruelty Buruma explores what makes the human species behave so atrociously and links this to the ideas of Antonin Artaud and his coined term Theatre of Cruelty
Bachman, Richard (Stephen King) - ‘Rage’
Psychological thriller. The novel describes a school shooting which, after inspiring several school shooters, was allowed to fall out of print. Might offer interesting insight in the role of art as being a good influence.
Einstein, Albert & Freud, Sigmund - ‘Why War’
An exchange of open letters, sponsored by the Institute, which leading intellectuals exchanged ideas on major questions, the most crucial of which was the threat of war.
Baumeister, Roy F. - ‘Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty’
Considering evil from the unusual perspective of the perpetrator, Roy F. Baumeister asks, How do ordinary people find themselves beating their wives? Murdering rival gang members? Torturing political prisoners? Betraying their colleagues to the secret police? Why do cycles of revenge so often escalate?
Bandura, Albert - ‘Moral Disengagement - How People Do Harm and Live with Themselves’
Textbook that asks the question: How do otherwise considerate human beings do cruel things and still live in peace with themselves?
Dahl, Roald - ‘Cruelty’
A collection of short stories exploring the notion of cruelty and why it is we make others suffer’
Sontag, Susan - ‘Regarding the Pain of Others’
A series of analysis of how to picture suffering.
Dawes, James - ‘Evil Men’
For this book is not just about the things war criminals do. It is about what it is like, and what it means, to befriend them. Do our stories of evil deeds make a difference? Can we depict atrocity without sensational curiosity?
Smith, David Livingstone - ‘On Inhumanity - Dehumanization and how to resist it’
Smith takes an unflinching look at the mechanisms of the mind that encourage us to see someone as less than human. There is something peculiar and horrifying in human psychology that makes us vulnerable to thinking of whole groups of people as subhuman creatures
Bergman, Rutger ‘Human kind - 'A hopeful History’
An argument is made that the innate goodness and cooperation of human beings has been the greatest factor in our success. Good to read to diversify ideological pov.
Oppenheimer, Joshua - ‘The Act of Killing’
Documentary film about individuals that reenact the mass killings of certain war criminals that live out their lives in current Indonesia.
Freud, Sigmund - ‘The Economic Problem of Masochism’
Freud, Sigmund - ‘A Child is Being Beaten’
A study of an infantile perversion in neurotic adults.
Cowart, Leigh - ‘Hurts so Good: The Sience and Culture of Pain on Purpose’
A book on the science of pain and correlate it with a variety of intentional experiences from ballet to eating wildly hot peppers, ultra-marathon and BDSM.
Bloom, Paul - ’The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning’
A book posing the idea that pain and suffering are essential to happiness. An ‘exhilirating antidote to toxic positivity’.
Bloom, Paul - ‘Against Empathy’
We think of empathy - the ability to feel the suffering of others for ourselves - as the ultimate source of all good behaviour. But while it inspires care and protection in personal relationships, it has the opposite effect in the wider world. As the latest research in psychology and neuroscience shows, we feel empathy most for those we find attractive and who seem similar to us and not at all for those who are different, distant or anonymous.
Cooper, Dennis - ‘The Marbled Swarm’
A fiction book about high art, old money and the unspeakable system of coercion and perversion. Dennis Cooper as a figure is interesting as one who has completely synthesised his dark sides in his work.
Queen for a Day (tv show)
American radio and TV show where contestants, women, were asked about the recent financial and emotional hard times they had been through. What does the participant need most. Therapeutic equipment for their chronically illy child, or a hearing aid? The winning contestant was selected by an applause metre. The gameshow makes suffering and sadness the goal and the prize.
Lewis, C.S. - ‘The Problem of Pain’
Frost, Christopher & Hulsey, Timothy - ‘Moral Cruelty’
The overarching purpose of Moral Cruelty is to identify and sensitise the reader to the existence of "moral sadism."
Smith, David Livingstone - ‘Making Monsters: The Uncanny Power of Dehumanization’
Boudry, Maarten - ‘Illusies voor gevorderden’
Niemand wil in een totale waanwereld leven, maar de waarheid kan ook kwetsen en verontrusten. Mag je haar niet af en toe wat geweld aandoen? Maarten Boudry vraagt zich af of er nuttige illusies bestaan, uitgekiende en doordachte wanen, heilzaam voor lichaam en geest. Wat is er mis met een placebopil, als je er beter van wordt
Nietsche, Friedrich - ‘Beyond Good and Evil’
Bernel, Albert - ‘Artoud’s the Theater of Cruelty’
Hobbes, Thomas - ‘Leviathan’
De natuur van de mens is wezenlijk competitief en zelfzuchtig, stelt Hobbes. Daarom pleit hij voor een krachtige soevereine heerser – een ‘Leviathan’. Deze heerser heeft de macht om vrede af te dwingen en de wet op te leggen, maar hij is ook het levende symbool van de eenheid van de staat, waarin alle burgers een plek vinden om te leven.
Dostoyevsky, Fjodor - ‘Notes from the Underground’
Dostoyevsky often writes about men who make deliberate fools of themselves when their reputations have become to pristine. The narrator mocks the idea that humans seek only what is beneficial to them; a man, he insists, may ‘consciously, purposely, desire what is injurious to himself. What is stupid -- simply in order to have the right to desire for himself, and not to be bound by any obligation to desire what is only rational.
Kono, Takeo- ‘Toddler-hunting and Other Stories’
Collection of short stories, evoking admiration and disgust in the reader.
Montell, Amanda - ‘Cultish - The Language of Fanaticism’
Ngai, Sianne - ‘Ugly Feelings’
Envy, irritation, paranoia -- in contrast to powerful and dynamic negative emotion like anger, these non-cathartic states of feeling are associated with situations where action is blocked or suspended. These minor and politically ambiguous feelings the writer diagnoses as a character of late modernity.
Carrol, Noel - ‘The Philosophy of Horror’
What makes something horror. And why do we enjoy it?
Artists to look into
Von Trier, Lars
Haneke, Michael (Raping the viewer into independence)
IDEAS AND CONCEPTS TO LOOK INTO
Shadow Work - Jung
Hegelian Dialectics - Every Demon needs their Angel
Methods of non-moral (not A-moral but not moral) thinking. Thought as aesthetic gesture.
Actors playing evil - German rules. Method acting. Not being arrested after plays as their fiction is still inside them
I'm just a Lutherin boy in a XXX world.
File:TEXT ON PRACTICE SIMON BECKS.pdf