By Olga Agafonova
Earlier this week I wrote a script for a five-minute film that I need to shoot by myself. Because of technical and financial limitations, almost everything associated with a movie set is absent – I am lucky to have found someone who has graciously agreed to play the main character.
The script is a monologue by a woman that heard a voice in her head during a difficult time in her life. I didn’t want this film to be about someone’s descent into madness: a five-minute experimental short by a newbie film-maker is not the place to tackle that. What I did want to get across is the depth of the woman’s pain as she remembers how her marriage fell apart.
About a year ago, I had an experience that I struggle to describe in the script: in response to someone’s words, I felt searing pain in my heart. I remember it taking my breath away and thinking that all that language about broken hearts might stem from the physical sensation of pain. It was strange – the sounds in the room faded away and all I could focus on was the physiological response. There was a heaviness and a weakness, almost a dizziness even. I don’t know if the blood drained away from my face but I felt like it had. This range of symptoms is not in the script of course and I worry that the few words I have in there do not convey the intensity of the emotional experience my character is having.
I’ve read a fair number of depressing books over the years but I can’t say that I’ve picked up on the techniques that make it easier to portray emotional distress. My character is not hysterical or furious; she doesn’t implode or whimper or curl up in a ball of grief. I don’t have hundreds of pages of backstory to help me out either. All I would like to capture is a moment where time stops and the bad news sinks in.
Having never worked with actors, I don’t know how much I need to say – I just hope that the person can somehow feel what I’ve just described and that she can re-enact it vividly.