Visions du Réel Interview: (…)
International Medium Length & Short Film Competition
In her intriguingly titled 40-minute (…), Dutch director Karina Beumer seeks to remind her loving father Ron of her existence after he develops Acquired Brain Injury, a debilitating condition which deprives him of long and short-term memory. Karina talks to SEE NL’s Nick Cunningham.
(...) by Karina Beumer
In 2015 Dutch artist Ron Beumer suffered blood clotting in his brain which led to severe memory loss, so much so that he forgot he had a daughter. As traumatic as this sounds, Karina (his daughter) was determined to address the situation using artistic means. Ron had written a book about his condition (Acquired Brain Injury), so Karina determined to turn his book into a film, one in which they would both would star (as well as her mum and brother) and which would creatively (and amusingly) examine the psychological consequences of the change to their lives.
Beumer’s 40-minute film, supported by The Netherlands Film Fund and the Mondriaan Fund, presents aspects of Ron’s past life as told in his book, such as his delicate courtship with his wife (and Karina’s mother). “Their first encounter is recreated because they have to meet, because otherwise they cannot make me as a daughter,” says the director.
But at a key moment, the film’s core antagonist is introduced, the Acquired Brain Injury itself. For Karina it was as if her father had been “kidnapped” and she therefore recreates a sequence in which her dad, played by Ron himself, is bundled into the back of a car. The symbolism continues as Ron walks along a Kafkaesque corridor entering various doors only to re-enter the corridor through another door. At which point Karina follows her father as he places arrows on the ground within his environment to work out how he best can proceed, or indeed tell us, the viewer, precisely where he is. And all the time he is heading towards a giant papier maché model of his own head - one that is large enough for either Karina or Ron himself to climb into.
“My first goal was to make the film from my father's perspective,” says Beumer of the head sequence. “But of course, it's my psychological perspective too because it's literally the daughter crawling into the head of her father to try to see things through his eyes. But of course, it fails. It's kind of impossible, but it's all about the attempt. I like to make my metaphors very literal.”
Beumer underlines how the experience of making (…) was full-on and that a 40-minute film isn’t like “making two 20-minute films.” It called for a bigger mindset, “a different way of thinking.” She was initially concerned, perhaps unsurprisingly, about telling such a personal story, but the need to do so totally consumed her. “It took over my life as a maker. I'm sure you're hearing this from every filmmaker, but maybe even more so because it's such a personal topic. It was just day and night, and I had this panic for a year. How will I tell this story? How do I come up with scenes?”
In finding the answers to these dilemmas she was able to turn to a dramaturgist (Victoria Vergult) and film coach (Barbara Visser) who taught her to remain true to the original premise of the film. “Always to return to the framework, never to float away from it,” Beumer stresses.
In the main, Ron is passive throughout the film. “It's not a problem that he has it [Acquired Brain Injury]. He's more like a child now. There's less barriers, and he sleeps a lot better than he did before. He has fewer worries.”
That said, Ron was a willing participant throughout (although he doesn’t stick around so long inside his own head). He also made a few suggestions about the narrative, such as recreating part of his courtship in Northern Holland. “His activeness was also by just being very enthusiastic,” says the director.
What’s more, Ron remains a skilled artist, having turned to sculpture, and he depicts trees beautifully in his notebooks and etchings. “By us developing a new language by making stuff for each other, I really wanted to show or visualize that this is a new way of communication,” Beumer concludes of the heartwarming father/daughter relationship that she depicts in her film, one with love very much at its root.