By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Now in select theaters and on VOD from Blue Fox Entertainment, BRAID is a unique trip into the minds of three very unstable women. We have exclusive words with the trio of leads, and the first-time filmmaker behind it all.
BRAID was written and directed by Mitzi Peirone and stars Imogen Waterhouse and Sarah Hay as Petula and Tilda, a pair of drug dealers on the run from both cops and another dealer they owe a large sum of money. They decide to rob their friend Daphne (CAM’s Madeline Brewer), who lives alone—and mentally unbalanced—in a huge suburban mansion she has inherited. Once they arrive, Daphne insists they indulge in the bizarre role-playing games they once played as kids, which descend into psychological torment and worse. Peirone presents the trio’s fractured relationship through an often hallucinatory lens with a discontinuous narrative, bolstered by riveting performances from the leads. RUE MORGUE spoke to them following BRAID’s premiere as a Midnight attraction at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
Can you talk about sustaining the necessary level of madness over the course of the shoot?
SARAH HAY: I had to kind of take it full Method with my character, because I was completely obsessed with her and all her madness. It was a journey of every single day, awakening another sickness within myself to make each scene special and interesting. It was so difficult, but so much fun!
MADELINE BREWER: We shot out of chronological order—we actually filmed the climax on day three—so there was an energy we needed to maintain every day to keep it alive, without being able to wrap your brain around three scenes from now. You could actually only wrap your brain around one scene at a time, because there are so many layers. Sometimes Daphne would change from the beginning of the scene to the end, and I don’t mean she just changed her mind about something; her entire person altered from the beginning of the scene to the end. So it was actually better to go out of chronological order, because it kept us thinking, “What are we doing right now? OK, that’s it, let’s go.” It was nothing else besides the present moment.
IMOGEN WATERHOUSE: It’s a fast movie, and every scene is full of energy. There really aren’t any dips or quiet moments.
MB: Yeah, there are no moments that are like, “Guess we could do without that.” Every single one is important to the plot and the characters and advancing the story.
MITZI PEIRONE: The script was originally 123 pages, and then I found out the schedule was 24 days, and I was like, “My crew and cast are going to die, I need to take care of them.” So I trimmed it down to 96 pages, and then in the editing room, we got the movie down to 82 minutes. It’s a fast-paced, slap-in-the-face acid trip. But to answer your first question, I never treated the girls as crazy. I could never do that. Their madnesses are the human madnesses of believing certain things that we create in our heads about ourselves and about others, and what we want out of other people and how we perceive our surroundings. To me, the girls aren’t crazy; it’s like they have too much soul for one body, and that’s how you get the feeling you’re not fit for reality.
Where did these characters come from? What was the spark behind them?
SH: It’s like tearing Mitzi into three people. Every person has layers to them that we keep inside ourselves, and when we go to a certain place we behave a certain way, or when we’re nervous or scared. We have all these different personalities living inside of us, and this seems like an extension of Mitzi in three people.
Where did you find that great house location, and did being in this place for all that time help you get into character?
IW: [New York accent] Yonkahs! It was an amazing mansion called Alder Manor in Yonkers, New York. It was like being in summer camp or something. We were all just in it, and didn’t leave. I mean, I went into New York City maybe once or twice on weekends, and it was weird suddenly being in the real world again.
MB: Yeah, Yonkers is so quiet and very different, and just getting on the West Side Highway, you were suddenly smacked in the face with the city, so it was a nice departure from our film reality.
IW: The house becomes a sort of make-believe heaven for the three girls.
MB: For Daphne in particular, I felt a special level of safety there, because it’s Daphne’s home, you know? I spent some of the moments when we weren’t shooting just wandering, and I don’t think I saw every inch of the manor in all the wandering I did. There was not enough time in even a month and a half to see all of it!
Sarah said that the characters are all parts of Peirone; did the three of you find parts of them in yourselves as well?
EVERYONE: Yeah. Definitely.
SH: I’ve struggled with fear my whole life; I think most people do, and coming to terms with what fear means to each person individually. I was a ballet dancer before I was an actor, there’s always a fear of not being good enough, and it’s a constant battle with yourself. Your body’s not right, you don’t have the right feet, or this or that, and now being an actor, I have a lot more freedom to just be myself. So I could see that Tilda lives with this fear that she’s not going to live her dreams in many ways, and throughout the film, she comes to terms with that. And I know that I’ve come to terms with not dancing anymore, and having to separate from that. So I used a lot of that while I was doing the film.
IW: I would agree with that. Everyone has a fear, and failure is probably the scariest prospect, because you think, “If I haven’t accomplished this or done that in my life, what was it all for?”
MP: I used to act, and I respect and admire and adore my actresses so much more because of that. It takes so much courage, facing rejection every day and still going for it, ripping your soul apart and leaving it out for everyone to see. Hearing Sarah say that, I’m like, “Yeah, she gets it, of course, they all do.” We all can relate to that fear of not being good enough.
IW: Also denying that fear, and I’m definitely guilty of that—acting like, “I’m fine” and putting up these barriers for yourself, and this protective feeling of, “I can’t fail if I don’t do that.” For Petula, at least, she doesn’t really come to terms with her own truth until the climax.
MB: I find it so interesting to hear this now, because when you watch the film, you think Daphne is the one who is so far apart from the other two, and they’re more down to earth and have more of a sense of themselves. And ultimately, they’re really just flailing. Daphne was a big exploration for me, because she knows exactly who she is. She has maintained that for her entire life and has never known anything else, but she hasn’t needed to, and I personally am someone who can kind of get swept up in whatever is going on. I’m a little too, I guess, malleable in that sense, which is good for acting but not necessarily as a person. So understanding Daphne’s confidence in who she is came from understanding my own confidence and owning it, which is not something I do very often, especially with my art. If I have to play anything close to myself, it’s like I’m immediately uncomfortable. The further away from me a part is, the more comfortable I feel in it; I get to step out of my shoes and into another pair. With Daphne, I had to confront my own insecurities and misconceptions of myself.
It’s funny, because people have been asking me, “Oh, what’s it like playing such a crazy role?” but Daphne’s confident in her delusions, so much that she makes them real. I feel like we’re all confident in our own delusions until they become reality.
Where do you see BRAID in terms of genre?
SH: It’s a romantic comedy! [Everyone laughs]
MP: I’m glad you asked that, because I haven’t been fully happy with that “horror, midnight movie” thing. It’s not a horror movie; I mean, it is in the sense that it plays with the terror of being alive and in your own head, and imagining things and worrying about things, which is something we all constantly do. I think “psychological thriller” is where I see it the most, but to me right now, it’s gotten to a place of CLOCKWORK ORANGE meets NEON DEMON, because it’s so baroque. At first, when we were pitching it, we were saying, “It’s like FUNNY GAMES and MULHOLLAND DR. and HEAVENLY CREATURES,” but as far as style, it’s closest to CLOCKWORK ORANGE, because it’s a massive, acid-filled, philosophical, baroque “Fuck you”—it’s unapologetic in its style, in its dialogue and how fast it goes. It’s like, you either get it or you don’t, we don’t care, we’re moving on. The characters are rock-solid, self-reliant women, and they don’t need anybody else, and in that way they’re beautifully selfish.