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Strange Colours' shlock and awe

The directing duo behind not-quite-giallo film The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears explain its disorientating visual spectacle

A visual and aural blitzkrieg can sometimes be very exciting: Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream, Gaspar Noé's Enter the Void and even Argento's giallo horror Deep Red. But in hubby-and-wife duo Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet's ode to giallo – the Italian whodunit genre that isn't afraid of a bit o' skin – The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears is a war of attrition. 

A lot happens in it – but good luck telling me what. The Guardian's Leslie Felperin gave the film one star, whereas Empire's Kim Newman prescribed viewers to "revel in its bonkers beauty". However, what it lacks in coherent plot points it more than makes up for with stunning visuals, including, but not limited to, gaping head wounds shaped like vaginas. While there are traces of the giallo genre present – themes of madness, black gloves, nipple torture – its disorientating story arc feels like a bad bed-spinning hangover. In the directors words, their 11-year lovechild was intended to assault. So in that sense, mission accomplished. To try and better understand their slick vision, we sat down with the directing duo to hammer into their ironclad oeuvre.

DD: Before you did work that was in the ‘giallo’ style. I was wondering if you would consider this film as ‘giallo’? 

Bruno Forzani: Giallo will always be one face of our work, but it’s not the only face. It's like ‘three faces of fear’, so giallo is not the main subject. It's part of our universe but we can’t reduce the film as an homage to giallo. We take the vocabulary of the giallo genre to tell the story but using it differently than the detective story. But we like the fetishistic aspects of giallo, so the black gloves and things like that.

DD: The visuals can be quite intense at times, is there an intent to shock?

Bruno Forzani: It's not shock. It was intended to do something overloaded, like a firework. It's like a rollercoaster, you are assaulted by sound, image, things like that, and to have an experience. You have a 1 hour and 40 minutes long intense experience and that was the soul of the film. It was meant to be an intense experience and to be seen in a theatre. The sound is very important. We tried to do something very immersive.

DD: There seems to be a lot of dream sequences within other dreams and I was wondering if they were placed to push the story forward? 

Bruno Forzani: We are very inspired by a Japanese director called Satoshi Kon I don’t know if you know him. It was Perfect Blue which most inspired us. Inception was based on his work, and (Kon) used to write stories with different layers, so each time you watch the movie you discover new things. So we have written the script like that, and so far there are two ways to watch the movie – the first time and maybe the second time when you watch it, it's purely experience. Maybe you switch off your brain and live it physically, and after the screening there are some links that come in your head and you say, “Ah, maybe it means that etc.” Then you watch it a second or third time and you begin to see the finer aspects. It's a bit like David Lynch, I don’t know if you enjoy his movies, but as viewers of Mullholland Drive or Lost Highway – the first time we have seen them we didn’t get it all, but it was a fucking experience with some very strong visions. We were touched by it but we could not understand why, and after we had seen the films a second, third, or fourth time it became clear. And it’s a bit like that that we have imagined the film. And yes the dream-like sequence, you know we dive in the subconscious of the main character and all this dream-like sequence is a way to tell the story viscerally.

“We have constructed a labyrinth – if we give you the exit, there’s no game anymore. So it’s the purpose of the movie to be lost. If people don’t like to be lost and think there’s no issue to it, then don’t play the game”

DD: I don’t know if you’ve seen anything online but there’s a bit of controversy about the film. People are saying it’s a bit difficult to understand. I was wondering how you feel about that?

Bruno Forzani: We have constructed a labyrinth – if we give you the exit, there’s no game anymore. So it’s the purpose of the movie to be lost. If people don’t like to be lost and think there’s no issue to it, then don’t play the game. It depends on each spectator, you know?

DD: Are you looking for any particular response?

Bruno Forzani: We try to give pleasure to the audience who enjoy that kind of movie, because we know some people don’t like that kind of movie. We have done something very playful, we have tried to be generous in each sequence. We have worked on it for 11 years so we’ve thought about every little detail, every shot, every image, every sound. So the purpose is to give pleasure to the audience. So maybe it’s a dark pleasure sometimes but it’s to reach a cinematographic orgasm (laughs).

DD: When I was watching it, I was reminded of Requiem for a Dream in the way that it was shot.

Bruno Forzani: Yeah, in fact we have tried to do something very physical, and Requiem for a Dream for me was a very physical film because you felt the editing and the sound working together. I remember I went out of the theatre after the screening. I was fine, and then all of a sudden, I have so much feeling that came from the sound and the editing that it broke my heart and I didn’t understand why, but we tried to reach something like that, something very physical.

DD: How does it feel now that you’ve released this film finally?

Bruno Forzani: I feel empty, exhausted, totally.

Hélène Cattet: Me, I want to do another one now!

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears is in select cinemas now