Tenderness is a film we made last year. It was shot very quickly (over the course of two days – locked in a flat during a hot summer). It was written over the course of a week, although the script was very short and much of the action improvised. We wanted to make something fast as a reaction to a previous film that had taken a long time to write and produce, and hadn’t achieved the results we desired. That particular exercise had been a drain creatively and physically, and we were disappointed by what we had created. Tenderness was intended to be a more instinctive film, one which excited us because of the speed of the production process. It was about throwing in lots of ideas, to create a mood on set that would be invigorating for us as filmmakers.
Tenderness deals with themes of memory, trauma, physical and psychological abuse, and loss. It is about how these things can manifest themselves in the present, making one paranoid, obsessive, fixated on minor detail. It also deals with violence, which the central character directs towards himself as well as other people. Much of the violence takes place out of frame, and the most disturbing moments are of him interacting violently with inanimate objects, such as magazine cuttings and dolls. These sequences feel more violent I believe, because they hint at the physical effects of actual violence – we see the damage that is done, even if they are to objects, rather than people. There are scenes that I didn’t include in the final version of him defacing old personal photographs, left out for timing reasons.
I wanted the visuals to look ‘home made’. To achieve this I use several long takes and odd angles, shot without the use of a tripod. In some sequences I allowed the lack of lighting to create a noisy and grainy image. In other scenes, such as the one where he harms himself in the bath, I just placed the camera on the edge, as if the character had used his own camera to record his actions. The use of black and white also gives the image a ‘colder’ aesthetic, appropriate for both the character and the atmosphere I was trying to achieve.
At just over 17 minutes it is long for a short film. But the duration allows the viewer to meditate on the issues and situations. It is a character piece, rather than a thriller, though it is indebted to the traditions of the psycho thriller genre.
There is something inherently amusing about the story and the character. He is in a situation of his own making, and though the narrative touches on dark themes it also brings out the ridiculousness of a seemingly intelligent man driven insane by allowing his imagination to send him over the edge. Like many (all?) of our films, it is about someone struggling with the reality of their lives and how to move through the world. There is always something comic, as well as tragic, about that.