This January at the Sundance Film Festival, there were many high-profile screenings of films with big stars (Perfect Sense with Ewan McGregor; My Idiot Brother with Paul Rudd; The Details with Tobey Maguire; Margin Call with Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, and Jeremy Irons) and all these films found U.S. distribution after their screenings at Sundance. Over 30 films were picked up throughout the course of the festival—Take Shelter starring Michael Shannon was picked up sight unseen by Sony Pictures Classics, and the film has played at Cannes and will unspool at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival starting next Thursday—and toward the very end of the festival, Bellflower premiered in the NEXT section (a category for “films that stretch a low budget to create big art and creativity with limited resources that inspire”) and was bought by U.S. distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories. By the festival’s end, Bellflower was one of the most talked about films by the festival’s end. Although I missed Bellflower at Sundance, I caught it at MSPIFF in April and have since seen it twice. Bellflower, opening this Friday at the Lagoon Cinema, is a real achievement in low-budget filmmaking, writing, cinematography, and sound design, considering the cost of the film was roughly $17,000.
The man responsible for Bellflower is Evan Glodell. Glodell, originally from Wisconsin, moved out to L.A. and started working on the script for Bellflower around 2003. Once the film started shooting, Glodell, 31, managed to have five active duties; director, screenwriter, co-producer, co-editor, and playing the lead male role of Woodrow. On top of all those roles, he also built most of the cameras for the film (Glodell spent over a month constructing what is known as “COATWOLF MODEL II”—in other words, a custom SI-2K camera) and turned his 1972 Buick into what is known as “Mother Medusa,” a vehicle that Glodell revealed is actually his own car and he drives around the streets of L.A. to this day.
Woodrow and his buddy Aiden (Tyler Dawson) have started building weapons (flamethrowers, mostly), muscle cars (i.e. Mother Medusa and cars that dispense whiskey in the glove compartment), and practicing lingo for the impending apocalypse, whenever it might be, until they met Milly (a fantastic Jessie Wisemen) and Courtney (Rebekah Brandes) at a bar one night and Woodrow and Milly face off in a cricket-eating contest. After exchanging numbers, Milly and Woodrow go out on a date that ends up being a week-long date driving from California to Texas and back. Though they’re both into one another, shortly after their escapade the two have a falling out and Woodrow begins to transform into a nihilistic avenger, with Aiden helping him build his macho car and image; Woodrow knows that his relationship with Milly has now become an apocalyptic reality.
Watching the Bellflower trailer, some audiences and critics have drawn comparisons to an updated Mad Max with a touch of Fight Club and a dash of a slacker comedy. However, Bellflower transcends into a touching romance, with enough laughter, tears, and plenty of beer-drinking; with some harrowing bloody violence thrown in for good measure to establish Bellflower as easily the most unrelenting, exciting, and original feature film debut of 2011 among those that I’ve seen. The tricky narrative builds a surreal story from mood, vision, and unstable characters who know they have to stay “the you-know-what” out of each other’s way and no flamethrower will stop any of them.
Bellflower is not an easy film to explain but is richly inventive, especially given how much the final product cost and has improved for me on each viewing—from each actor’s performance (Wiseman should be a star after people see her in this commanding role) to the sound design/editing, along with an unbelievably melancholic musical score by Jonathan Keevil and striking images from start to finish, using different digital cameras to give each scene a different look, dazzling the eyes and mind.
Speaking by phone from L.A., Glodell was friendly and even, and had a good sense of humor about some of my questions for him about his film; it would have been nice to ask him many more. My first question for Glodell was, what type of films influenced you growing up; and what gave you the idea and the look for Bellflower?
Press the play button below to hear the interview.
Photo courtesy Oscilloscope Laboratories