The Focus turns its lens on 'The Taking of Ezra Bodine'
For the second year in a row MassIFF has selected a short film from director Lance Marshall whose lead in Demon Deep In Oklahoma, Shannon Beeby, won MassIFF's 2014 Best Actress In A Short award. This year we are screening The Taking of Ezra Bodine. Another hauntingly rustic piece Marshall's Ezra features an all male cast which is given dialogue far less restrained than in Demon, but just as convincing. The Cinematography of Aidan Schultz-Meyer is rich in color and texture setting a dark tone for the film. I spoke with the Executive Director James Oxford about Ezra which will premiere with MassIFF on August 28th, 7:00pm at the Brattle.
Both Demon and Ezra deal with the nature of possession in multiple forms like in romance, spirituality, or the actual taking one individual from another. Do the films mean to paint a darker portrait on the nature of possession in human relationships?
To an extent yes. Both films deal with people with the best of intentions who through their actions end up hurting themselves or the person they are trying to save.
The locations chosen for Demon and Ezra are rustic with the characters set in isolation. Rather than simply a backdrop do these locations have an emotional or supernatural effect on their characters?
The locations definitely play a role in the film and either affect the characters or are affected by the characters that inhabit them. In Demon you have a home that we can assume has been soaking up so much negative energy over the years from its occupants. While the location for Ezra could be what drew the characters to it. In both films the characters seek isolation.
In Ezra there seems to be a distinct difference between how the caretakers in the film "see" the character Ezra and how the audience is meant to "see" Ezra. If so, is this difference a comment on the mysterious and layered natures of truth and perception?
This is something that we definitely don't dive too deeply into because we want the audience to feel whatever comes naturally. But there is a perceived spirit that the characters are drawn to in Ezra, that doesn't necessarily match Ezra's appearance, and whether what they perceive is true or not, is up to the audience.
On the same subject, when watching Ezra, I felt the film was initiating a subtle dialogue on the nature of human fragility toward self-delusion. What are your thoughts on this interpretation?
Unlike Demon which allowed the audience to really get to know and connect with the characters, to the point [where] you felt like you were part of what was going on, Ezra keeps the audience at arms length. I think what Ezra gives the audience is the experience of watching from the outside and seeing or at least feel like you're seeing the characters for who they really are which may differ from how the characters perceive each other. I definitely think it gives you a look at characters who blindly follow their heart, though they feel they are well aware of what they are doing and what to expect.
Is the remark at the end of Ezra about masks perhaps a comment on the internal human struggle to look, or better, the fear of looking deep inside oneself and seeing the truth?
It really goes back to the common saying of, "Don't judge a book by its cover." But in this case, it’s don't judge a person's intentions on their behavior. Everyone wears masks to hide pain, weakness, deceitfulness, and various other feelings both positive and negative. We often are on the lookout for people who seem too nice, suspecting that their intentions might not be genuine. But we don't always think about those who project negativity may actually be masking pain, grief, or fear. Masks are not just a disguise to deceive, but also can serve as protection and shelter.
Demon seems to fall into the horror genre. Would you say that Ezra is a supernatural western? If so, what were some of the creative choices behind taking on this project?
With all our scripts & films we try not to categorize ourselves in any one genre. Overall we think of them as dark dramas, but both of them definitely cross multiple genres. We always want the scripts to be character driven. Both have a suspense/thriller type feel to them. With Ezra, its definitely got a supernatural drama feel to it.
Lance [Marshall] and I are both from the south so the films will typically have a rural feel to them which helps create the isolation that both these films crave. Ezra definitely keeps the audience very close to the characters. Other than a couple of wide shots, you're mostly right up next to the characters so that you feel the subtle tension that is building. And not to be redundant but creatively we set out to find a setting that felt so remote and cut off from the rest of the world which definitely makes you feel some anxiousness because if something goes wrong you're alone.
What was the most rewarding aspect of making the two films?
Number one thing has to be the people. The actors in both were just amazing to work with. We knew all of them before from previous work so we knew what to expect. We knew how talented they were. It was exciting for us to get someone of Bill Sage's experience to be a part of Ezra, so kind and professional and just gave us so much. A majority of the crew that we had on Demon was also on Ezra. So we've definitely formed a close bond with these amazingly talented people. And beyond that, it’s just bringing these stories to life and learning so much about filmmaking while doing it. If you ever stop learning, you're doing something wrong.
Adan Inteuz as Hawkes
Adriana Hammond is the writer and content producer for MassIFF. You can reach her at: Adzhivago