Why did you choose this topic for your first film?
“Faith and spirituality have always fascinated me, especially the way people relate to concepts such as good and evil, and how to deal with the latter. I do wonder sometimes if certain concepts are taken too literally, and then begin living a life of their own, far removed from their intended purpose. They become so standardised that we don’t even question them anymore, but has their true meaning got lost somewhere down the line? And more importantly, is this objectification dumbing us down? Then one night I had a dream that I went to the school of the devil – it was a very elaborate dream, but what I encountered there was nothing like the images of hell and the devil that have become so cliched. I woke up wondering where these images had come from and thought I’d grab the bull by the horns.”
It is not the first documentary about the devil – what will be different about this one?
The ones I’ve seen are all very much drawing on archive material and relating this back to world events. The Face Of The Devil is much more of a personal investigation, and relates it back to the individual. It’s not just about showing how the devil’s image has changed over time, but about uncovering the real figure behind all this, and staring it in the face. And the visual style will be quite atmospheric, almost dreamlike, to recreate the feeling I had in my dream.
What has the response been so far?
When I tell people the name of the documentary, most often I get a bit of an uncomfortable ‘Oh…’ Some people actually literally move back a little. Maybe it’s because exploring the ‘dark side’ is something they would rather shy away from. Or they think I’m an aspiring devil worshipper. When I say that I might interview a satanist they say “Be sure to meet in a public place”. They think I may go missing, and then suddenly, a year later, footage is found in a forest… But at the same time, people seem quite intrigued. The concepts of evil and the devil are universal anyway, and I’ve had some really interesting and unexpected conversations with people from all sorts of religious or spiritual backgrounds. I’d like the final film to offer something interesting to everyone.
Does this film have a specific religious or spiritual agenda?
The only agenda it has is to push for a more considered use of the idea of evil and the devil. It’s so easy to say “That is evil!” without considering what’s actually led to that situation. Is there actually such a thing as pure evil? The devil has also been used to vilify political movements, certain social groups, entire nations or religions… it’s like we don’t want to see these people as human beings, because then we’d have too much in common with them. The film is saying that taking certain things for gospel without knowledge of how they came to be may not help our understanding of the world. It just makes us more judgemental – not just towards others, but also towards ourselves.
What do you think was your dream trying to tell you?
What I took out of it was that, if you really want to grow as a person, you need to learn about all the parts of your inner being, also the ones you’d rather not want to know about.
Your background is in theatre production and live performance. What’s it like to be producing a documentary film?
For me it’s all the same thing – you have an idea and you’re looking for the best way to express it. I’m finding this really exciting, learning about the production process and the techniques involved, but I’ll probably always be going back and forth between theatre and film and writing and performing, or integrating them somehow. If I could live my whole life like that, that would be amazing!
There are quite a few things I’d like to achieve in 2012, a mixture of film and theatre – I’ve been writing loads this year. But until the end of January The Face Of The Devil is my main focus, and I’m hoping it will open a few doors… fingers crossed. Although I don’t have a clue where that expression comes from. I’m from Holland and we don’t have that expression in Dutch… well we do, but we don’t cross our fingers, you interlace your fingers from both hands and move your thumbs around each other. We say “Ik zal voor je duimen”, which literally translated is “I will thumb for you”, thumb being used as a verb rather than a noun. It’s supposed to bring good luck, unlike thumping someone.