Lisa Brühlmann on Blue My Mind

Warning: it’s near-impossible discuss Blue My Mind without some spoilers. If director Lisa Brühlmann doesn’t explain anything about her exceptional debut feature, how will it find its audience? Because, like her main character, her film just doesn’t seem to fit in.

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

  • Still uit Blue My Mind

Who is this film for – and how do we get them to see it? It’s a basic question, especially for marketeers, but with Blue My Mind finding the answer is tricky. The film touches on several different genres. “A coming-of-age fantasy drama”, is what debuting director Lisa Brühlmann calls it, and, alright then, after some insistence, she agrees to adding “with elements of horror” to that description.

Trickier still are, in this case, the spoilers. The film is such a strange beast, you can hardly discuss it – let alone do an interview – without spoiling anything. So let’s just say that the movie is very much worth seeing, especially for a debut. If you’re adventurous, have the possibility of seeing it, and rather not know anything beforehand, please stop reading here. And also skip the trailer, because it already shows too much. For the rest of you, we’ve tried to keep the spoilers to a minimum.

Why is the most important plot development shown in the trailer?
“It’s very short, at the end of the trailer. It lasts for three frames or so, not even a second. Still, we had big discussions about that. The thing is, if you don’t mention it, the audience might think: oh, it’s a coming-of-age story with a girl who tries to kill herself. And then, they might not go to this movie. So, we wanted to tease the audience a bit. But of course, perhaps it is a spoiler.”

At the very least we should mention here, that her body is going through some big changes that include a fantasyelement. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where the inner changes of young people get represented by fantasy creatures.
“Ha ha, that’s a nice link. But, I never watched one whole episode of it.”

Inevitably, your film also brings to mind the film Raw (2016) by Julia Ducournau.
“Yes, a lot of people were like: ah, it’s like Raw... But, half a year before I started shooting, I didn’t watch any movie at all. Because I didn’t want to get influenced by others. So I finally saw Raw last week. Mostly because I heard it was really good. I also saw some similarities of course, like the moments she was eating raw meat. At that moment for a second I thought: ah... shit!”

I think that sometimes there are stories in the universe and they have to be told at a certain time and they just come to us.” – Lisa Brühlmann

There’s a similar kind of drive behind these two stories.
“I think that sometimes there are stories in the universe and they have to be told at a certain time and they just come to us. It might be a certain Zeitgeist. Maybe we will recognise that trend in a few years. Maybe we will look back and see there was a wave of films touching on a certain sentiment.”

In cinema, the female body is often looked at by men, and presented formen. So it can be a feminist reaction to say: in my movie, you can keep your clothes on for a change. But films like Blue My Mind and Raw actually go one step further: they do look very closely at the female body, but with a feminine gaze.
“It was important to me to tell the story from her perspective. It’s always through her that we see the film; and the audience never knows more than she does. So of course, it was very important that she was really strong. Luna Wedler is such a good actress. She can be vulnerable and fragile, but there is a power beneath it. She’s got this beautiful face, but it also has something really wild about it. Like with her teeth, there is an animal aspect to her.”

You don’t seem to look at the body so much as an object of desire, but more mechanically, as an organism that changes, that fails, and that isn’t under its owner’s control. The way David Cronenberg does.
“The Fly.

Exactly. Are you comfortable with the phrase ‘body horror’, as his films are often called, to describe your own film?
“Yeah, that’s OK. It’s an interesting thought. I wasn’t aware of it when I wrote it, but now that it’s done, it makes sense. But do you think it’s really horror? Raw is much more extreme, I think. Still, many people told me: oh my god, your film is terrifying!”

Horror films tend to pull a specific crowd. Arthouse audiences, who are interested in a coming-of-age drama, often get scared off by even just a few horror elements.
“That’s why we felt we had to explain something of where my movie was going. So the right people would find it.”

Your main character is fifteen. Are teenagers, whose own bodies are transforming too, your target audience?
“I’m not sure, they might be a bit young for this film. It might be for a slightly older crowd.” 

Maybe: fifteen and up?
“Yes, I think that’s OK. Let’s say fifteen and up. Although some peculiar scenes might still be too much.”

But for them, it might be easiest to understand the girl’s behaviour.
“Yes, her behaviour is very common at that age. You know that you are changing, but you try to push the problems away. You know it, but you don’t want it. There’s also shame. She’s scared of what’s happening inside herself. She doesn’t trust it. At the same time, she tries to be normal, or what she thinks is normal. So she has sex, but she doesn’t take off her socks or shirt.”

Which has the side-effect of seeing nude men without a nude woman, for a change.
“Yeah. It’s different, ha ha!”

Blue My Mind was shown at IFFR 2018 and was part of IFFR Live.