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Still from Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve’s And So To Sleep

Watch Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve’s surrealist short film

BAFTA-winning director Kieran Evans breaks down the cinematic influences behind And So To Sleep, his 25-minute film for DJ Erol Alkan’s psych pop project

Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve is the psychedelic collaboration between producer/DJs Erol Alkan and Richard Norris. Last month they released their debut album The Soft Bounce, a trippy journey through psych rock, krautrock rhythms, cosmic dance music, and lush dream pop. To coincide with the album, Alkan and Norris asked BAFTA-winning filmmaker Kieran Evans to create a set of music videos, with each individual clip coming together to form part of a larger whole. “We gave him complete control,” Alkan told us recently, “We read the treatments, which we loved, and just told him to do whatever he wanted.”

The result is And So To Sleep, a 25-minute film inspired by surrealism, French New Wave cinema, and avant-garde theatre. “The idea behind making And So To Sleep was that we wanted to create a short film that had a strong thematic and aesthetic premise with a twist on what people considered ‘psychedelic’,” explains Evans, “The five tracks that Erol and Richard had supplied had a rich and unusual soundtrack feel to them, and listening to them on repeat, I started imagining them as musical sequences from a strange 1960s avant-garde film.”

The film draws on influences from New Wave directors like Alain Resnais and Georges Franju, as well as the work of surrealist photographer Arthur Tress and the experimental theatre of Samuel Beckett, to tell the story of two characters, E and F (Emily and Francois), over five distinct chapters. E and F wander around a strange house that’s occupied by masked characters and filled with symbols, shadows, and surreal dream logic. “I sequenced the five songs into an order that seemed to fit a musical theme and introduced the narrative concept that what we are watching is either a recurring dream-within-a-dream, or even the memory of a dream, by one of the two characters,” says Evans.

Along with director of photography Vanessa Whyte, Evans set about creating a world where the story could be shot through simple staging and atmospherics, using old school filmmaking techniques rather than overusing digital technology. “The shooting rules kickstarted the thought process on how to approach making the film possible,” says Evans, “We ended up shooting it like a short film over two days in a derelict mansion house in South London that a friend had recommended.”

Watch And So To Sleep below, and read on to learn Evans’ major inspirations behind each of the music videos that make up the short film.

DOOR TO TOMORROW

Kieran Evans: ‘Door To Tomorrow’ felt like the music you’d hear in the opening titles to a film, and given the lyrics featured a character called Emily, we decided it had to be the first track featured. This is very much influenced by the wonderfully evocative film Last Year At Marienbad directed by Alain Resnais and written by Alain Robbe Grillet. In the film we follow three characters around an empty chateau drawing on ambiguous flashbacks and disorienting shifts of time and location to explore the relationships between each of them. The wonderful use of symmetry and symbolism, alongside the dramatic staging of scenes, gives the film a dreamlike atmosphere. I wanted a similar feel for the opening to ‘Door To Tomorrow’ that would set up the story and journey of E and F through the following four tracks.

DIAGRAM GIRL

Kieran Evans: We put ‘Diagram Girl’ second in the sequence as its brooding electronic sounds seemed to fit perfectly with the idea of Emily entering the darker spaces of the mansion house, pursued by an invisible presence. In effect, I wanted this to be about her being slowly trapped in a dark void, so I started thinking of mirrored states and infinite reflections and how this could create an unsettling atmosphere that would complement the song. For research, I looked at a lot of Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy photographs, and how they used glass and mirrors to construct their compositions. I then came across a film by Orson Welles that he made in 1947 called The Lady From Shanghai. It’s a complex film noir affair which has an incredible climactic sequence all shot in a hall of mirrors, where one of the characters pursues another into the room and they have a shootout. As the bullets ricochet and the mirrors shatter, the reflections of each character multiply in the shards of broken glass until the screen is full of their faces. Just like the characters, you too become lost in the fragments of mirror and the layers of reflections. It’s an extremely powerful and beautifully stylized sequence, and so this very much influenced our thinking in how we shot the clip.

CREATION

Kieran Evans: I always felt that ‘Creation’ and its twisted Calypso rhythms had to have a strange dance routine concept, so I placed it at the heart of the film, just like a big show number appears halfway through classic musicals like Singin’ In The Rain. I also loved the dance routine sequences in Jean-Luc Godard's Vivre Sa Vie and Bande A Part that spring out of nowhere and become something extraordinary. I ripped a few of these clips and edited them to fit the track, replaying certain shots backwards and forwards, and from this experiment came the concept of a choreographed routine that could be danced backwards. I then worked with the wonderfully talented choreographer Alexandra Green, who help devise the dance routines and bring the concept to life.

IRON AGE

Kieran Evans: For ‘Iron Age’ I drew a lot of references from Georges Franju’s wonderful 1963 film Judex. Franju made the film as an homage to 1920s French silent films, and nowhere is that more visible than in the incredible opening scene of a masked ball where everyone is wearing animal or bird heads. It’s a powerful and unsettling sequence, especially when the camera moves through the masked crowd and they start turning and looking directly at us, the audience. So with ‘Iron Age’, I wanted to create this unsettling atmosphere where (guest vocalist) Blaine (Harrison) and his screaming, out-of-control alter ego is dragged backwards through the house, passing through rooms and spaces inhabited by the masked characters who completely ignore him. They just stare at us instead.

BLACK CROW

Kieran Evans: For ‘Black Crow’, the track felt like the epic closing number that would run over the end titles of a film, so I wanted to bring Emily and Francois together and pull all the narrative elements and strange symbolism that we’d seen previously into a climactic visual cocktail that is part-bizarre film trailer and part-end title sequence. When I was thinking of how to make ‘Black Crow’ work, I was drawn to the trailers for some of the films previously mentioned, and especially Georges Franju’s Eyes Without A Face. These trailers all had an epic quality, focusing on one or two visual aspects and scenarios of the film, and used these elements to hint at what the story might contain. Given the limited editing technology of the time, the trailers relied on tricks such as looped shots, reversed motion and over-dramatic sound FX and voiceover to build up the themes and ideas of the movie – basically it was a film-within-a-film. So with ‘Black Crow’, we worked on devising dramatic shots that would fit in a trailer and weaved it around the final moments of E and F in their dream state. It’s also where you can see a lot of the influence of Krapps Last Tape by Samuel Beckett as the old man (F in later life) replays the tape of a long lost song set to the memories of events from his past being replayed over and over again, only each time they are slightly different to the last.

And So To Sleep screens at Festival No. 6 with a Q&A with Kieran Evans from September 1-6