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Film: An Interview with Jessica Lux

War photographer, Award winner, Film-maker. Louisa Lee talks to Jessica Lux.

Written by Louisa Lee

All Stills from ‘Join The Dots’ by Jessica Lux

Jessica Lux is a film-maker who has had her share of interesting life experience. She rejected a place at Oxford to study English at UCL, viagra approved wrote for Private Eye, The Times and Time Out after graduating before flying off to Uganda to photograph Lord’s Resistance Army War. After returning in one piece, she has now gone on to be a film-maker who has already achieved accalaide in the field by being voted one of The Observer’s Future 50 “movers and shakers” of Art and Design in the UK.  Louisa Lee sits down to discuss the remarkable journey of Jessica Lux.

You studied English Literature at UCL. What drew you to film from English Literature? I was never very interested in the discipline of literary criticism. When I went to study English Literature it was because I wanted to write novels. After my degree, I kept focussing on writing but it was a miserable old business. It’s so solitary. Everything just became words or something waiting to be converted into words. I was continually thinking: how can I describe this, how can I use this? After my degree it got to a point where it was making me so unhappy that I started to question whether I wanted a future of this. So I just gave up on it all. Later I met a boy who did film and I thought: I want to do what you do. It was odd: I’d never been into the cinema or films really.  He went back to film school for the new academic year and I found out where his college was and pestered them to let me on the course. They finally agreed to talk to me, then gave me a place in the final year of the course. I remember finishing the first class on a massive wave of euphoria and certainty. I just thought: I love this! This is my thing!

Do you feel that it helps in any way for film-making? It helps in every way. For the first two years of my degree, the literary criticism and all the pretentious arguments really turned me off literature. Jung once said ‘Anyone who wants to know the human psyche would be better advised to put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study and wander with human heart through the world.” So I went down that route instead. I’d find the most unfamiliar situations I could and fling myself into them headfirst.  Crucially, I soon realised reading literature allows you to empathise with different kinds of people. That’s the thing you really need to learn: it’s no good trying to script or direct the actions of a character if you can’t empathise with them.

Your films and music videos, that I’ve seen so far, seem to explore a child or teenage nostalgia with a dark edge. Why do you think you return back to this unsettled idea of youth? I don’t know. I feel too close to what’s going on in my life at the moment to make sense of it. I’m so up close to it that it’s out of focus. I can see the past in perspective and feel like I understand it a bit better.

Your Roots Manuva music video, C.R.U.F.F., explores ‘a boy’s nightmare war being fought with toys’. How did this idea come about? I thought of that idea all in a one go, but it combined elements that I’d been thinking about for a while.  That tends to be my working process: I get vivid little bits and then one day they all bundle together and become one story which then takes on a life of its own.

Which film-makers inspire you? I’m very inspired by the women directors in this industry who are bold and brave: particularly Jane Campion, Kathryn Bigelow and Andrea Arnold. I was so excited that Bigelow won the Oscar for Best Director. I think that most female film directors have a tendency to yank apart their work in a fever of suspicion and over analysis; destroying something which might have been excellent. I love filmmakers who are genuinely experimental – in the sense of being forced to forge a new language to convey something that they passionately want to communicate. Like Derek Jarman’s Blue which is just him talking over a bright blue screen. He was dying of AIDS and had gone blind and wanted to show how the world looked from that perspective. I also love a film called The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes by the American artist Stan Brakhage. He went into a mortuary and filmed autopsies, documentary style, as if he were shooting birds batting about on a lake or something. I had always thought that autopsies were conducted really delicately, like operations. But it’s like watching a person rifling through a suitcase in search of a lost sock. The banality of it is shocking. It made me cry but have this fierce sense of the beauty of these fragile little human beings, fiddling around with their nail varnish and sticking on artificial eyelashes and hurtling towards a void so vast and black they can only look away.

Is there anything else that you build inspiration from and if so, what? I’m really inspired by other people; the things they say and the things that they don’t say.  Humans are such strange beasts. I’m inspired by things that effect me strongly. I also listen to music all the time and whenever I’m not talking to people I have headphones on. So the world as I see it pretty much always has a soundtrack. I love this combination of image and sound: it can make things that you might overlook as mundane seem startling beautiful. I also love lots of artists in other mediums: Shakespeare, Chekhov, Picasso, Francis Bacon, Beckett, Nan Goldin, Walt Whitman, Philip Larkin, Thom Yorke, Hieronymous Bosch

How do you like to work when you make a film? Is there an amount of improvisation or is it meticulously planned? Film requires a strange mix of being very free and very precise. I think it’s important to absolutely precise about the emotional core of what you are trying to communicate but very free about all the possible ways that it could be communicated.

Who would be your dream person to work with on a film? Walter Murch.

I read the film-script you are working on at the moment. Like the two other films that I have seen by you, the film culminates in a beach scene; the beach setting seems to be the pinnacle point of the drama. Are you conscious of this and if so is there a reason for it? I know! I realised that after my second film, and have just realised I’ve done it again with this one. It isn’t conscious. I don’t really go in for symbolism, it seems a bit of dead way of working. But I think even if you don’t consciously set out to do symbolism, I think a lot of people find they do it without realising. I’m not entirely sure what the sea means in my films, but I suspect its to do with my associations with it. I was quite a solitary child and would often go and walk down the beach on my own. I’d make up stories and speak in the voices of my characters. It was this sort of clean space where all the frills and decoration and clutter fell away and you could think clearly. My first film and the one I am making now are both about the amount illusion is involved in our perception of reality. The sea seems to be a place where the characters are forced to confront reality as it is. But because it isn’t a conscious use of symbolism, perhaps it isn’t that simple.

When will this film be finished and where will we be able to see it?
We’ll be entering the film for film festivals around the world as soon as it’s finished. It’s called Join the Dots.


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