Slave Of the mind | An Interview with Danny Germansen
Interviewed by Samiksha Periwal
Cult Critic- The title of your film is very interesting, could you please elaborate on the relevance of the same?
Danny Germansen– The title refers to the menace and the mental pain a mentally ill person feels. The pain of the mind can hurt more and be stronger that a physical pain, like a broken leg. The ill person is suffering a big stress, a big pain and a lot of mentally and emotionally discomfort without having a solution to battle the discomfort. It do not go away by taking a pill, like a pain killer for headache etc. So without any directly cure except maybe many years of psycho therapy. The mentally ill person is a slave of the pain and discomfort of the mind.
Cult Critic- The process of mental breakdown has been showcased very explicitly in ten different stages in your film. Do you think the same process happens for every individual facing a mental breakdown?
DG– I think many of the stages might be universal, and are emotions and stages all humans can feel if they went thru something similar that I went thru. But mental illnesses are all unique from person to person because mostly the mental suffering is based on the persons personally journey from childhood to adulthood.
Cult Critic-Since mental illness is still considered to be a stigma in the larger society, how do you think such films would impact the audiences? What would be their key takeaway from your film?
DG– I think for many people the honesty and brutality of the my films pushes them away, they block emotionally the message of the films, because it’s too erupt and directly or because it don’t interests them or they don’t understand it. Here again the stigmata you mention in the question. But for people who suffered mental distress and even worse, the films might be a comfort for them. To see they are not alone with their experiences and their pains. And then I hope that families, friends and the treatment systems. Can use these films to enlighten them in how a family member, friend or patient is living, feeling and experience the situation.
Cult Critic- Is the film shot recently or does it include old video clippings? How do you think using either of the two would impact the essence of the film?
DG– The original film was shot on old DV video tape back in 2001 and is filmed in standard definition of that area. We restored and remastered it to this new version just released. I think the raw look of the film and the un-sharped images gives an extra touch to the brutality of the film. Instead of being polished in sharp 4k and look clamorous, the raw look gives a feeling of being naked, honest, low budget, underground and is a salute to the danish dogmas films of the late 90’s ignited by the big internationally known danish filmmakers Lars von Trier and Thomas Winterberg and others. The raw ugly images gives an extra dimension to the ugly life of being mentally ill.
Cult Critic- ‘Slave of the Mind’ is an experimental film. Do you consider making more such films? If yes, what aspect of filmmaking would you like to experiment with in your upcoming projects?
DG– The form and story telling of the films would be an experiment for me, I would like to work more with green screen because I start seeing possibilities in story telling as using background images on a green screen. You literally can go anyway with a green screen out in space and down in a volcano. But I would also use it in a creative abstract form of storytelling.
Cult Critic- You have used a very distinct background score for the entire film. In your opinion, how does it impact the mood of the film?
DG– The soundtrack is written and produced by Daria Baiocchi, she said it was the first think she thought when see saw the film. For the first the soundtrack remains my of old silent films, as is Slave of the Mind also with no dialog. So I like the salute to old films. But it also gives a sad melancholic feeling to the film and kind of underscore the epic battle for life that the character have in the film. As in the score is a classical opus.
Cult Critic- The theme of social isolation is very prominent in the film. If given a chance, how would you like to bring inclusivity for such estranged people?
DG– I would like to break down the wall of prejudice and stigmata of mentally and physically ill people in the public gernerally. People are sometimes very afraid of people who is different or people they don’t understand or understand the illness of the person of subject – Who is battling deceases and also most face social isolation because of prejudice. I would love if the people in the public would do more to include and welcome ill people, as their neighbor, in schools, work and at public events. So I would ask people to be kind, open minded and don’t judge people who is different, look different and act differently. I would wish people could take more responsibility in their local community to include estranged people.
Cult Critic- What according to you is the most difficult phase in the ten phases of a mental breakdown that has been portrayed through your film and why?
DG– The mentally pain, its hurts more that many psychical pains and is very exhausting. Those days with the pain of the mind, is very hard to get thru because it disable you. Its hard to do anything elles and to concentrate about even the smallets things of the day, like something normal as answering the phone, take a shower or get something to eat. Many times it disable you to stay exhumed laying in bed or on the sofa the day long with no energy to do anything. It occupies your whole life those days. And can easily be compared to a psychical disability. The angst also is a big disability and can be compared with the mail pain.
Cult Critic- Choosing an offbeat topic and portraying it in such a crude form is not an easy task. What are some of the challenges that were faced by you while ideating and creating this film?
DG– To live thru the pain and angst myself. It’s a projection of my own thoughts and emotions and the most difficult task was watching the film myself afterwards. Even after all these years since I made the film. I still get a little uncomfortable myself watching it because it’s an exhibition of my own disease and is raw and naked, and show how vulnerable and sick I was. It’s hard to watch for me. But I do get more to ease with the terms of it over the years and accept, thats how it was and now I can live to tell the story.
Cult Critic- The editing technique used in this film is very abrupt and mostly includes ‘fade’. Is there any particular reason behind using this technique?
DG– The rough editing is a part of the brutality, the rawness and nakedness of the film and the subject of mental illness, pain and angst. The fades is used as symbols of the emotions, as an example – the fade from the painfull mind of the character into the egg crushed and fried on a pan, is used as a glide into and to show a doubleness of the mental pain. Symbolized in an empiricist way. The egg frying on the pan is metaphorically the mind being fried/burned out, the mind is boiling, hint the mind is hurting.
Cult Critic- You call this a semi-autobiographical film. You are truly an inspiration for many who lose hope and give up. What aspects of the film do you relate to? Could you kindly motivate our readers by explaining in brief your journey of dealing with a mental health issue?
DG– I do relate to the whole film, because it’s a true influenced art of work. Myself was broken, laying on the sofa, with no possibility to do anything, not even answering the phone or to take care of myself. It’s been a long hard lonely road our of hell. I have had a lot of mentally and emotionally work to do with myself and are still working with a psychologist on my issues and I’m still on some medication. Even if I have been able to cut some of the medication down. But I’v come a long way, and are positive I will get my problems solved and be more at peace for the rest of my life. The early film and art-video works I did, has been a kind of therapy for me to work with, I was crying out my own pains and loneliness, mental issues and emotional problems. It helped me in many ways. 1st. I got to express and project my pains and problems out from myself and away from my body, project the issues outside myself and thereby creating a form of relive. 2nd. It made me to have something to focus on and brought meaning to my life, and give me activities to do. 3rd. I got internet maybe later than others, because I could not effort it in the beginning. But when I got internet it changed my life complete. All of a sudden I could distribute my work out to the world, from the little town I live in. All those positive experiences helped me on the way to a form of healing. So most of my film and video-art work has changed my life in many ways. Now I hope my films, my work and life story can inspire and help others. To keep fighting even if life look hopelessly dark, down and meaningless.
Cult Critic- Lastly, what genres do you prefer working on? Any new project you working on?
DG– I will do what ever genre I get inspired to, but think in the near future I will continue to produce arthouse and experimental film. I was in pre-production with a new arthouse short film when covid-19 hit the world, so hopefully I will get to resurrect that film very soon. In the meantime I’m working on finishing music tracks and music videos I started out to produce under the covid lockdowns.
PS- Thank you for these insightful questions. Thank you for watching Slave Of The Mind and talking with me about this film. I’m really honored.