"Trusting other people will put your
ass in jeopardy every time."
How Sherry loses her virginity, her illusions
and her lip ring in one trippy road trip across Europe.
Sherry is searching for a place to belong where she can still be herself. She thinks she has found this in SPARK - Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge. She takes off in SPARK's camper van as they cross Europe recruiting a membership of the down and out. They arrive at a disused vineyard in Portugal that will be their paradise.
Harry, the group's leader, begins harvesting ripe grapes and ready minds through his own methods of hard work and punishment. The stakes are high within this volatile group. Two deaths ensure the submission of most of the recruits but not Sherry, or the apparently craziest street person, Mad Ax. Mad Ax is the least taken in by SPARK's rhetoric.
He is also in love with Sherry.
Into this Shangri-la comes Sherry's mother. Failing to persuade Sherry to leave, she decides that SPARK has more to offer than single parenthood in London. Disillusionment complete, Sherry stands up for what she knows is right, denounces SPARK, and escapes with Mad Ax into the unknown.
I left home when I was 15.
The energy and vitality of youth is paramount to the
film. Like me at that age, the film's heroine Sherry is searching for a place to
belong where she can still be herself. She thinks she has found this in SPARK -
Street People Armed with Radical Knowledge. I tried to create an organisation I
would want to join, SPARK was the result. Harry, SPARK's leader, says "Most
organisations aimed at helping the homeless want you to fit back in, and
contribute to society, like you should get off the street, into a house, into a
9 to 5 job...but maybe there's another way." To me, SPARK's appeal lies in
offering those who have fallen through the cracks a chance to pull their lives
together, without having to become cogs in the wheel.
The down and out characters SPARK recruit are clever, witty and sardonic. I
tried to show the tenacity of these people on the margins in an irreverent,
humourous way. It is the apparently craziest street person, Mad Ax, who is the
least taken in by SPARK's rhetoric. He appreciates Sherry's innocence and
feistiness, and falls in love with her. She rejects him, but inspires him to
break out of his apathy. This strange relationship between Sherry and Mad Ax is
my favorite thing in the film, a love story.
Sherry leaves the group after compromising what she believes in order to find
acceptance. At the end of the film she stands up for what she knows is right,
aware that she will go out into the world totally alone, but with her freedom
and individuality intact. Others joined the group easily prepared to give their
power away, in exchange for the security and sense of righteousness that being
part of a group can bring. George Orwell's Animal Farm was a classic
inspiration for exploring this meeting point of politics and human nature.
Although SPARK helps some of its members, my own disillusionment with
'alternative lifestyles' is reflected in the story. In my teens I lived for
several years in squatted buildings in London, teetering on the edge of
homelessness. I met and was inspired by political activists who wanted to
change the world. The let down was hard when I discovered so many of these
people to be armchair anarchists whose daily lives were little different to
anyone else's. The utopia we were meant to be building never materialised. But
at least there was a good party along the way.
I intend the film to look to the audience as the world looks to Sherry as she
experiences it. As she travels from Northern to Southern Europe the
dramatically changing landscape illustrates the mood. We experimented with how
far we could push the limits of the HD blow up process from 16mm to 35, to
create our unique look of saturated colours, sometimes blown out, sometimes
shadowy. During the shoot, we often used very long master shots, which we
grabbed just as the sun was about to set, rehearsing the shot again and again
as we waited for the perfect light.
I used my background in dance and physical theatre to express the deeper
emotions of the characters. Choreography is central to many films I admire, the
fight choreography of Raging Bull, the soldiers in Claire Denis' Beau Travail.
I love the heightened and intense physical drama dance conveys, but I am often
puzzled as to why the dancers are going through the angst their contorted
bodies express so powerfully. With MOUTH TO MOUTH I was able to create
choreography where the audience knows exactly why the characters move as they
do, because they have spent the previous thirty minutes getting to know the
characters' stories. The choreography flows naturally from the characters'
interactions and does not reflect conventional dance styles. I tried to work
with the unique physicality of the individual actors to create something
believable yet heightened. I hope the overall style to be truthful, yet poetic.
The moments where Sherry physically touches and is touched by the other
characters speak the most.