C.M-S: Can you please introduce yourself?
P.R.: My name is Pat Rozema. I was born
and raised in Canada, in a Dutch immigrant community. I studied
the standards subjects for most of my life, showed some interest
in drama and story-telling, was a liar (That's a good start for
a writer!) I believe now that my highest value is honesty; I was
always the actress in plays, studied philosophy at a Calvinist high
I figured out how to make money out of stories and decided to be
a journalist, worked in journalism for a while, veered quite inevitably
after a while to cinema because I had discovered images through
television journalism ... and here I am.
If you're a singer and you have a big hit song, people want you
to sing that song, and that song only, over and over again. Yet
we have within us many songs. You can become a kind of prisoner
of one song. It may be that it was a catchy song but I think there
is also a nostalgia and as things recede into the past you remember
things with a certain glow.
C.M-S: Have your movies a common theme
like a melody?
P.R.: Oh yes. But I like to think I have
a broad range that as a person I'm capable of quite a number of
different shades of emotion, so if I take a movie of each of those
different shades they will still be different, but I'm still the
same person. I think it's like first love, the first time you experience
that feeling - mm - there's nothing like it. Every other one is
going to be just a little bit tainted because that one didn't work,
that one ended. And because that one ended, you will always have
just a little less faith in the ones following. There's the song
- the first cut is the deepest. People met my sensibility in that
first film, and when they meet it again there's not as much as surprise.
I can never surprise them again in the same way unless I TOTALLY
change my personality. I will not be able to surprise them in any
C.M-S: But at least you surprise them
with your movie ending.
P.R.: Well, good I love to talk to people
who haven't seen the other ones because their response is so much
more pure response.
C.M-S: How did you get the idea for the
story? Is it in any way biographical?
P.R.: Yes. It's all biographical or autobiographical,
but I've never taught at a college, I've never worked in a circus.
I have known the love of women, and I have known the love of men
so these are things where I'm drawing on personal emotional experience.
C.M-S: You say that you have a Calvinist
P.R.: Yes. I grew up in a family that went
to church - the Christian Reformed Church twice on Sunday,
catechism class on Tuesdays, Young People with the Church
on Wednesdays. When we sang together we sang hymns. We would say
Hey! No. 44 and we would all go into three-part harmony and know
all the verses of these depressing dirge songs - but these were
our folksongs. I had some awareness of pop-cultures -I had a radio
- I heard the Bee Gees and we lived close to Detroit so I knew Mo-Town.
Didn't have too much awareness of pop culture, or watch much TV.
That was quite controlled. We'd see Walt Disney on Sunday nights
and so on ...
C.M-S: Weren’t you rather easy on the
church after the last 2,000 years...
P.R.: Really? The script was harder on
them, but there’s something about fiction that demands that you're
kind to people. That character would be completely a cardboard character
if he were an absolute asshole. He could love this person, hear
a confession from her, and then just damn her irreparably, then
the character, as a character, would be less convincing. He would
be like a cardboard villain. It was a wild thing for me, and I had
this conversation with the actors because there was and extended
scene where he wants to pray with her - one shouldn't mention what
was cut out - but there is a scene where he sits down with her and
prays. And - paraphrasing my own script, he says, "Oh my father,
creator of heaven and earth we come before you with humility, We
love you because care for us an even the most violent and degrading
of acts you can feel it in your heart to forgive, even the most
repulsive ... and she's feeling more and more condemned, and stands
up and pulls her hands away from his, and he says, Calm down this
can't be real what are you going to do join the circus and become
a lesbian clown." ... He was much more villainous, but it just
didn't feel real. It didn't feel like an intelligent man in 1995,
albeit from the church. He wouldn't condemn her immediately, but
would try to embrace and then maybe quietly try to convert her to
heterosexuality. But no intelligent person - and I have a family
full of preachers and teachers - one of my uncles is in the Synod
of the Calvinist Church and the position of Calvinists is still
love the sinner hate the sin. Homosexuality is OK, homosexualism
is a sin. And he was most generous and sweet to my lover of many
years. Then there is the whole gay-Christian side of the world.
I think that is a bit of a stretch really - like doing some pretty
fancy mental gymnastics - to see that the Bible could ever be generous
towards gays. It's like this is an abomination, Sodom and Gomorrah.
There is this movie - Priest. It really dealt with this
subject quite well - and I'm a catholic myself. When I saw it there
was a woman crying through nearly all the movie. We had coffee together
afterwards, and she said I'm from England and that is the mentality
It was a very illuminating experience for me that fiction demands
that you give people subtleties even if you're opposed to the institution.
This is what I was trying to convey - that religion was characterised
as a hierarchy, as a political enterprise, as a corporation. All
the conversation is about whether they're going to get that job,
if they cut out this behaviour and go back to company policy or
party politics, then they can get this advancement as career Christians.
They can elevate through the ranks. That's the scariest thing about
religion that it's an empire that wants to grow. The Vatican is
nothing if not an empire. And the Pope goes out to develop new
markets all the time. They have company policy statements and it
is about power and territory like any other human business. That
is to me a frightening thing about religion because it begins in
a beautiful way, I think. The coming to the belief that love is
the highest priority; that we must find a way to be kind and not
to destroy; these are good things but then eventually that becomes
institutionalised. They then make decisions like fags, and dykes
are horrid and should burn.
press conference for When
Night is Falling,
From left: Barbara Trant - producer;
Rachel Crawford, Pat Rosema, Pascal Bussiéres (actresses)
C.M-S: That’s why I asked you about fundamentalism
at the press conference because it's one of my pet theories that
fundamentalism will destroy humanity if not we're damn careful.
Be it Christian, Muslim, - or political fundamentalism - it will
make it very difficult to make the necessary decisions in connection
with ecology and so on because of this "one-issue" politics.
Decisions which must be made.
P.R.: I agree with your theory that it is a frightening possibility.
I think it is always a danger. It is something to do with the Millennium
- that it is a collective human birthday. As with all birthdays
we look back, forward, and revaluate. We look back and say well,
we've tried that materialism thing with Marxism thro the 60's and
in the 80's a kind of materialism again. There might be more and
more of a call for a spiritual way. You've got the beginnings of
it with the New Age murmurings throughout the world. Then there
is this Droermann -a kind of philosopher poet - a good-looking,
mischievous ex-priest who is promoting a new kind of Christianity.
C.M-S: How do you get your actors and
actresses to do what you want them to do? I'm thinking of the love
P.R.: It is a question of trust; a feeling
of being respected. I only hire people I like - and people can feel
that immediately. Otherwise I'm not going to want to caress them
with the camera - actors want to be loved! - And who doesn't? So
they're completely human in that. That's this humanising thing of
fiction. They want to play characters who even if they are the most
evil of people, are interestingly evil, that have reasons for their
evil. They have something in their past that made them that way.
It's trust; it's extended conversation. In the love scene I spoke
to them at the moment - in the script it was described quite explicitly
so that they knew this was not going to be a cut to the clock situation
but would be extended and detailed. They seem both very comfortable
with their bodies too and they way they talked about it too It was
oh "I'd love too!"
I think we were all a little nervous on the day but it was a totally
private setting - just me and the cinematographer and the focus-puller.
These two guys behaved like a machine - they were just there. We
had music on, a couple of glasses of scotch and I tried to shoot
it so that I didn't have to change the lighting and the technology
of film-making was fairly unobtrusive. The cameraman was there,
moving on a dolly, and I was just there. I was watching on a monitor
and would say quietly too the left here, or pan-off to the sheet.
You need to pan off so that you can cut. We just shot half an hour
of them making love. It was very this beautiful big circus space
and we had heaters on them so that it was nice and warm. So I tried
to create an environment that was easy. I told them a painter wants
to paint a beautiful nude I want to paint beautiful images of these
two women together.
C.M-S: You had a really good relationship
with your actresses?
P.R.: Oh yes. We had 5 or 6 days of rehearsals
- just talking about the characters, the scenes, and the clothes
- actors are very sensitive to clothes. Moreover, they know that
I want them to look beautiful. I must say that what was shown here
is a lighter version that the one I prefer and have with me so that
one sees more. And once or twice I thought "Holy Shit!"
C.M-S: I thought it was very sensitive
P.R.: Good. That's very important. There
is stuff I threw out because for my own personal taste it became
pornographic. It is a delicate thing to go back to their faces often
enough; to find a kind of intimacy between them that wasn't just
bodies mingling. That it became a subjective experience of love-making
which was often abstract. If you see two people right there, fucking,
(sic) of whatever gender, it is usually a bizarre and ridiculous
event, and there's something ugly about it. But when you do it you
just see pieces. I had to make it subjective because it is not a
C.M-S.: A lesbian said to me afterwards,
I'm slowly getting tired of coming out films ... although I don't
think it was that.
P.R.: I don't either. The beginnings are
exciting. Cinema, fiction often documents the first few moments
because that's where conflict is greatest, and conflict being drama
- that's where the drama is greatest. When they've been together
for a multitude of years then the issue couldn't be their love anymore,
the issue would be something else. It was important to me to show
the church environment. I know that the gay world and the straight
world doesn't really want another coming out film. They're hungry
for a more normalised kind of thing, but I can't pander to this,
then I'd just be a marketeer. The greatest fear, energy, dynamism,
is at the beginning of things, and as Petra says everything becomes
I'm more afraid of the gay press than the straight press to tell
you the truth. (They are more aggressive.) Because "Group-think"
in a small group can become so much more important. Because I include
a heterosexual element in the film, but I really did want to include
humanity in this film. I'd be disappointed if I only had a gay audience.
C. M-S: I think potentially it can contribute
to more tolerance ... because of the tenderness there.
P.R.: I have problems with the word tolerance.
I know that is usually all that we can get but I don't want tolerance.
I don't want someone to say "It's OK what you do." I want
it t have dignity and glory, to be seen as a superior event.
C. M-S: Do you also have problems because
it was two women in the movie? and is classified as "lesbian"?
P.R.: I think it is a little more than
a lesbian love story. You could switch the genders and it would
work. But it will be called a lesbian love-story and I have no problems
with. I guess I would call myself a bi-sexual lesbian because I
like men. I'm never going to be completely embraced in a hard-core
lesbian community. I think if more people had a more open sexual
imagination they could too. I think you are in danger when you start
presenting homosexuality as an achievement. Absurd!
C. M-S: What's this thing with Bob, the
dog? I didn't know what to make of it.
P.R.: I needed an event - a small-ish event,
that would "unhinge" this person. With that dream there
is this whole world that's not acknowledged. I think we all have
sides of ourselves that we don't dare to look at. I needed something
like a rupture - a heartbreaking moment that would trigger a change.
The human story is full of people leaving their socks on the floor
and someone kills them! There can be so much build up that only
a tiny change in the circumstances or your emotional stability Then
she doesn't behave normally - she puts the dog in the fridge! We
know there is something amiss here. It has become this big symbolic
thing for people, but I just thought it was amusing to have it come
to life again. It's a kind of miracle, in a film that is about a
miracle - this wild change that she has made in her life. But the
Bob -thread is small. The film is also so romantic that I needed
something morbid, absurd, element in it.
Some people really feel that on some abstract or emotional level
"YES, This is right!" - and other people feel that it
is wrong, wrong. I don't want to answer it. It is just there.
C. M-S: Good. Thank you for the interview.
Colin de la Motte-Sherman