Sunday, 29 April 2012

Model and filmmaker Victoria Keon-Cohen blogs about the genesis of her first film.... Eternal Return and its links to mental health charity Bipolar UK



Every time I talk about this film I go through a flow of emotions - excitement, exhaustion, embarrassment. When I listen to myself go on about scarecrows, curses and sacrifices, feelings of loss and ridiculousness arise. This is because there has been so much feeding into the development of this film from different angles. I strongly believe in it like I did when we decided to start a Models’ Union at the risk of our careers. Everyone told us we were mad. It seems that madness has now returned.


Eternal Return is a short medieval fantasy film. It’s ambitious just because of this genre but that’s not including falcons, prosthetics and burning a boat on a pond scene! It’s a story about sacrifice and how we evolve through relationships. I co-wrote it with my friend Agatha Lintott after being inspired by her grandparent’s farm in Somerset, England. Amongst it’s stunningly broken down wall garden and elegant oak tree resting since the beginning of time over the Lady of Shallot pond and the giant cornfields, we lost our imaginations. This beautiful setting combined with a difficult relationship I was going through at the time spawned this synopsis:


Isabelle, the daughter of the estate tries to escape her oppressive family to elope with Henry, the seamstress's son. However, she gets caught and killed. Upon finding her body Henry, out of despair, sews up all her wounds and hangs himself on a scarecrow pole erected over her gowned body. Upon this sacrifice a curse comes into play where Henry’s soul is embodied as a falcon, his human figure is suspended in the form of a scarecrow and Isabelle comes back to life.

The couple is given a second chance, their lives suspended between human and scarecrow form where the only way to transform is through sacrifice, one for the other. When their bodies revert back into their scarecrow figure they continue repairing each other with stitching, hessian and straw. Upon becoming human again the hessian, stitching and straw change to skin and scars.

They go through different stages of transformation until Isabelle poisons herself. “With no scars to repair this time, if this doesn’t work please go on without me” is the note she leaves her lover. Henry cuts open her scarecrow sternum, takes out the rotten straw and burns it in a fire. In this moment of defeat, however he realizes a way for Isabelle to complete the cycle for them both and thus find serenity together in a new form of life.


Their devotion to each other is unwavering. It supersedes all other values, fuelling their loyalty and emotions even at the cost of their own humanity. The two are never seen human in any scene together and with no responsive dialogue, alternative communication becomes a way of life to overcome the boundaries imposed on them. Their virtues and pitfalls are all part of the reality of commitment and sacrifice as they evolve together in a search for mutual serenity.


Since commencing this film, I’ve been asked about parallels with Buddhism, been told I must be the only model who has read Nietzshe (I haven’t but will now!). When I explain various conflicts with my ex, people obtain a further understanding about where the key elements of the story came from. I quite like these different perspectives as it's so interesting to hear about how they interpret the story's meanings. They seem to align different elements of it with their own experiences. As a filmmaker, it's quite rewarding to know it has this potential to reach the audience.


Last week an anonymous contributor offered to fund 20% of the budget in return for raising awareness of the charity “Bipolar UK”. The charity doesn’t advertise but puts its resources only into ensuring its services provide for the 65,000 individuals who sought its support in the last year. We are therefore thrilled that this film has the opportunity to help such a vital cause.

Bipolar – sometimes known as manic depressive disorder - is a severe mental health illness characterised by significant mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. It is treated with psychiatric medication records the highest suicide rate of all mental illnesses. Compared to other health problems that have a similar or lower impact, treatment of bipolar is still hampered by misunderstanding and severe stigma. It takes an average of 10.5 years to receive a correct diagnosis for bipolar in the UK. Misdiagnosis occurs on average in 3.5 % of cases.

Our incredible team has donated their time in-kind including Oscar short-listed cinematographer Vernon Layton and makeup artist of the year Lan Nguyen. We ask you to please contribute here to allow us the necessary resources to complete this film and reach out to further audiences raising awareness of this invaluable charity. Bipolar UK: www.bipolaruk.org.uk


Victoria Keon-Cohen works with NEXT management London and has modeled for clients such as Reply, Versace, Levis and Vogue. She approached Equity with Dunja Knezevic to start the first trade union for models in 2007 and stood as Founding Chair of the Equity Models' Committee from 2007 - 2012. Having studied Performance Design at Central Saint Martin's her first job in film was Costumer to Robert De Niro on Killer Elite (2011). She is currently still working with the Models' Committee and is also making films in both the fashion and film industries. Equity Models’ Committee: www.equity.org.uk/models

View the development trailer for Eternal Return here...



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