If you want to unsettle people you have to take something relatable and move it further and further away from the continuity of the familiar.
Devotion is a film about grief and love but you’ll never hear me explain what’s really going on. I knew when writing the film it would raise more questions than it answered. That’s what I think story telling is for, much more than telling us how to live, story is about raising questions.
The film is filtered through several layers, the familiar or ‘straight’ narrative and then the demands of the genre – which is why the film is rich in subtext. One is plot one is story – in the film you will experience moments where the plot disappears but the story is all the richer for it. That’s one of the things I was aiming for. We all have moments in our lives where the familiar is threatened or disrupted, and we experience these moments emotionally – they have affect even if the meaning is difficult to discern. That’s a lot like being in love, where we start to vanish into our lover, but even as we experience ourselves dispersing or merging we are aware of all this feeling happening to us. That’s similar to grief as well – though grief is much scarier because we can never merge with the object of grief because they have gone. Grief and love are very very close to each other. They are aspects of our lives where we question who we are and what we experience – and we do this in relation to another person. It’s a salient reminder that we are all alone and the attempt to connect and lose ourselves in another person is impossible – but we try and we keep trying.
The film is a dark inversion of the possibility of love, and clearly warns of the perils of not respecting your shadow. Like all good horror the darkness is a proxy for aspects of the characters’ lives that need to be acknowledged and aren’t.
I worked on the project with collaborators I've known going back years, the final scene is not something you should try unless there is a level of absolute trust and you have already made all your mistakes.
I wrote the script whilst studying an MA in Dramatic Writing at Drama Centre London, and it’s a very simple setup, payoff, twist structure. Though you are quite right to question the reality of what you see in narrative terms, and to ask what's really happening?
Working with Fraser Watson the DoP was my first collaboration in film, and we spent a long time talking about the way we wanted to capture the story. We hope you find that there are moments in the film where you feel you are watching something you shouldn't be. It is an intense and also measured ride through the breakdown of a family.
I've known the actors for a long time, and I admire their abilities, and owe them a huge debt of gratitude. They are familiar with my work as a writer and director, which allowed us to penetrate the text and achieve the subtlety you see in the finished product. When it came to the twist we were able to work simply and precisely to achieve the profound discomfort you will experience.
Franc Cinelli is another longtime collaborator, and his music is perfect for the mood and atmosphere of the piece. It is a very strong presence, which is inseparable from the experience of the film overall.
Thank you for reading and all the team hope you enjoy the film.
Written by Dan Horrigan, Director & Writer of Devotion
Watch the Official Trailer