An installation project that Dominika and I made in our first year of uni can be linked to the bridge scene and pier scene in ‘The Layers’. Stylistically, ‘Bridges’ (2015) follows similar camera movements and angles.
Above: Stills from ‘Bridges’ (2015)
The film is a 3 and a half minute loop installation centering on what happens when two strangers pass each other on a bridge. It is about parallel worlds, fate and chance encounters.
Above: stills from ‘The Layers’ (2017)
Inspired by Joseph Campbell: ‘The Power of Myth’:
“The first part of any initiation must deal with the death of the old self and resurrection of the New”
Andie’s interior life (from birth until present day):
Andie had always felt like an outsider, she never fit in. She took drugs recreationally and rebelled until she left college. When she left, she distanced herself from her old ways, determined to change, live a healthy and secure life, but she’ struggling and likely to slip into her old ways.
Field, S. (2008). The screenwriter’s workbook. 1st ed. New York: Dell Publishing, p.46.
How have you thought about the impact of depression in your life over a long period of time?
I was diagnosed with Manic Depression in 2011, when I was 16 years old. In a way, I was relieved because I finally had a label for how I was feeling. But also, I felt restricted by the term. Because even though there was a name for it, it didn’t truly describe everything I was feeling.
Do you feel it’s a part of your identity as a person, or more like a problem peripheral to the core concerns of your life?
I don’t like to identify myself with Depression, because there’s so much more to myself, than this illness. Looking back, I realise that a lot of the concerns I had throughout my life have been triggers for my Depression. But it also comes out of nowhere, unexpectedly. Therefore, I can accept that that’s how my mind is. But it’s not me.
Have you been through shifts in your view of what depression means to you? How do you think about it now?
When I was diagnosed, I shifted all my blame of how I was feeling to Depression. I didn’t take full responsibility for how I was feeling. Now I take responsibility, and do everything I can do to live well. So I don’t see it as something that takes full control of my life. I see it as a nuisance, but it’s something I have to work proactively with, and do the best I can.
Below are some of typical beliefs that sufferers of Depression shared with a researcher of Depression; David Karp (1994). I will state some of the beliefs that are related to Andie’s experience of Depression underneath.
- “Depression has a power over me that controls what I do. I can’t escape it and somehow have to adapt.”
- “I know this will be with me for the rest of my life and that I’ll be taking medication forever. But the treatment has helped me reach a balance. Most of the time I’m very functional, but I know sooner or later a really bad depression will knock me down again. I can live with that.”
- “It’s like there’s a happy me and a sad me that take turns in my life. I’ve gotten used to it.”
- “I really think I’m having a reaction to adverse events in my life and that counseling and medication will get me through this. Eventually I’ll find a way of feeling better that I can maintain.”
- “I’ve learned to see pain not as bad or to be avoided but as part of life to be accepted.”
- “Depression is a part of life to be explained like any other.”
- “I’m pretty well recovered now. I think depression has made me a stronger person with skills and abilities I never would have developed without it.”
I think that all of these explanations can relate to how Andie has felt about her Depression.
During the pier scene, when Andie turns around to find that Alison is no longer there, it signals that Lately, Andie’s viewpoint has shifted and she’s no longer primarily a depressed person. So instead, she goes towards one of the directions that Karp (1994) identified, feeling grounded and only dealing with residual symptoms which no longer add up to depression.
As Javier Trevino (2014) cites the fourth stage of healing is coming to grips with long-term depression. Something changes as you go through recurring episodes and perhaps find that treatment isn’t getting the job done. The patient begins to associate depression as part of who they are. Karp (1994) terms it as a ‘depression identity’ which is developed. Once this identity is acknowledged, the patient will need to come to terms with living with the illness indefinitely.
This is where Alison comes in.
Alison is like an unwanted room mate, who follows Andie everywhere she goes.
Karp’s research finds that sufferers of Depression usually go in one of two broad directions as they adapt to the illness: which is to deal with it constructively or passively.
Dealing with the illness constructively, is to put a framework for when the Depression takes over. By dealing with the illness constructively, the sufferer is able to prepare for the worst, but still able to lead a functional life. Conversely, dealing with the Depression in a passive way, is to mask the effects of Depression, sometimes with stimulants such as alcohol, or to overwork oneself.
In the film, Andie acknowledges Andie’s presence, but she chooses to ignore Alison, sometimes fleeing from her: like in the toilet scene.
Above: Andie hiding in the toilet.
Towards the end of the film, Andie takes control of her Depression: as scene in the painting scene (where she transforms Alison’s mess), and during the pier scene, where she takes Alison’s hands and calms her down.
Finally, Andie walks away from Alison, signalling that she’s moving on with her life.
- Karp, David A. “The Dialectics Of Depression”. Symbolic Interaction 17.4 (1994): 341-366. Web. 6 May 2017.
- Treviño, A. Javier. Investigating Social Problems. 1st ed. Sage, 2015. Print.
Even a person who knows how to live with the burden of their own mind can need help. Outcries from people you aren’t expecting are easily overlooked. This is also known as Smiling Depression, which is acting happy to mask the sadness that the sufferers are feeling. Sometimes it’s not safe for a person with Depression to be alone, even if they say differently.
But other times, sufferers will open up and reach out. These moments are the most crucial, because they are especially powerful. They are what builds a bridge between people who have different levels of emotions and mindsets. They are what creates a closeness and trust among friends and lovers that isn’t always easy if some feel they have to camouflage their true selves.
Greist, J. and Jefferson, J. (1994). Depression and its treatment. 1st ed. New York: Warner Books.
From showing the film to friends and colleagues, we have received different interpretations:
- Andie and Alison are lovers and the film is about their dysfunctional relationship
- Alison looks like the artist’s model Elizabeth Eleanor Siddal who was painted and drawn extensively by artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The