admin On aprile - 19 - 2014

by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

‘Gabriel’ is a beautifully harrowing story of a troubled young man, who is convinced that reuniting with his first love will bring him the stability and happiness he craves. Against his family’s better judgment, he sets out to find her, but as the obstacles mount on his search, his grip on reality begins to slip and his behavior becomes more erratic, as his tender pursuit gradually reveals his maladjustment.

First-time-director-writer, Lou Howe, who was recently named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film for 2013, majestically explores the abyss of the human mind and its obsessiveness, as he explains the making of the movie:

What inspired you to tell this story?

The original idea came from my experience of seeing a close friend diagnosed with mental illness in his teens, although the character of Gabriel is purely fictional.

Was there additional medical research you carried out with doctors or patients?

There were two organisations here in New York that were very helpful: The Child Mind Institute, that read an early draft of the script making sure the illness was portrayed accurately, and I also visited several times a place called Fountain House, which is a community centre for people struggling with mental illness. I also brought Rory there, to give him an idea of what he would have to been dealing with when creating the character. But in general I wanted the entire cast to figure things out from their point of view, for instance with first person memoirs for Rory.

Did keeping a journal about Gabriel’s day-to-day life help during this process?

This was the first step in the creation of the project. I started to write a journal, as a first-person diary from Gabriel’s point of view, and most of it ended up in the script. But this was really my assignment almost as if his therapist had forced him to write journal entries to bring into each session, and that ended up organically creating his whole world.

You approach mental illness in a rather unconventional way, what was your motivation?

I wanted to be as truthful as possible to the character of Gabe and make it as authentic as possible.

How did you prepare the actors before the actual shooting on set?

We had a lot of conversations beforehand and built up Gabe’s internal world. I provided them also a strong backstory for the entire family. There was a lot of world building before we got on set, so that before shooting there was a deep foundation to take off.

Actor Rory Culkin, who delivers an electrifying performance as Gabriel, tells his side of the story:

How was your encounter with people dealing with mental illness?

For me it was entirely about hearing first hand accounts, understanding their perspective. Learning from the outside, through the medical aspects, is great as a foundation, but as soon as we started shooting I threw it all out the window, because to Gabriel the diagnose is nonsense.

What about the other actors, how did you interact with them to create your character?

For me there was no need to get entirely comfortable with the rest of the cast. We liked each other and were nice with one another, but I didn’t need that trust there, because Gabriel did not trust them, and this element was essential.

How did you develop the body language, since you don’t have that much dialogue in the movie?

When I spoke to patients who were mentally ill, there was one who struck me because he told me he couldn’t entirely trust his own hands and they had to stay within his line of sight.  So that is why I moved my hands always in line with my face.

Was this character difficult to shake off at the end of the movie?

I thought I left him behind once we were done, but when I got back home I was fragile and very sensitive and my friends said my face had aged of years even if it were just a few weeks of shooting. I think it will take time to shake it off. When I saw myself again as Gabriel, at the festival’s premiere it brought me right back and I got emotional.

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