Below, first-time director Jake Yuzna shares a scene from his 2010 Berlinale Teddy Award-winning feature film “Open.” It holds the distinction of being the only American film to ever receive the Teddy jury prize; the film also received a Best Actor award at NewFest for its actor Morty Diamond. The film just came out on DVD through an Ariztical Films release.
What’s it about? The film interlocks several story lines to tell the tales of Gene and Jay — two transwomen who, inspired by the rocker Genesis Breyer P-Orridge go through rigorous plastic surgery and hope to achieve their pandrogynous ideal. Syd, a FTM trans guy, is also developing a relationship with his cisgendered boyfriend.
Behind the scene: OPEN is as much an ode to those who, by choice or force, challenge the status quo, as it is an attempt to break down and rearrange culture in its own right. Both these pursuits strive to uncover new forms and possibilities for humanity emerging in the 21st century. At its core, OPEN is about this attempt to create something better out of the limited materials of the human condition.
Opening oneself to new possibilities was a theme I wanted to reverberate throughout the entire film. Whether in an emotional way, in the case of the characters, in an experiential way for the viewer, or in the actual narrative structure of the film itself, I was interested in communicating the bittersweet process of allowing oneself to open up and discover a new perspective.
A personal goal for me was to help strengthen alternative narrative styles in America, moving away from Hollywood and the traditional independent film style that draws very heavily upon the Hollywood model.
The scene that takes place within the roadside Hall of Mirrors attraction illustrates these elements working together. The hermaphroditic character Cynthia slips in and out of her own emotional memories and experiences of the first love she has just left. Instead of using dialogue or action, I was interested in how the combination of imagery and subtle alteration to score and sound design could communicate the emotional experience of the character as she takes the first steps of her own journey of self discovery.
I am fascinated with emotion, due to its singular nature in mankind. If one strips away any of the markers of a civilization, such as culture, identity, language, and sanity, emotion always remains. It’s the one foundation we cannot remove, and what everything else swirls around. With Cynthia and the Hall of Mirrors, I wanted to work with the performer to discover a new method for honestly communicating this difficult emotional experience of opening up, of trying to let the past slip away, and trying to step into the unknown of a new landscape: a place that is terrifying, necessary, and powerful.