To be fair, the unlikely success could do it to anybody. Actor-writer-director Evan Glodell made “Bellflower” over a number of years, on his own time and dollar. After becoming a success at Sundance, the film’s now seeing a national release in major cities. He speaks from experience, and yet – like many debuting filmmakers – seems caught in the headlights.
Many viewers will leave his film with that feeling. “Bellflower” displays its rag-tag creation at every moment. Using an amateur cast, the film is a loose assembly of scenes. The overall narrative concerns Woodrow’s (Glodell) relationship with Milly (Jessie Wiseman), though the film wanders from love scene to bros bonding over their machinery. Slacker boy meets hip, too-great-to-believe chick (he also drives cars with as much credibility), and in the next moment Woodrow and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) discuss their project of building a flame thrower, to set up a scene in which burning fuel fills an extreme long shot.
There’s been a lot of talk about the film’s “Mad Max” inspiration. Though in truth, it comes scattered. The Medusa car, in concept a treat to Mad Max fans as great as Leonard Smalls in “Raising Arizona,” remains rumbling in the background, dying for an action scene. (It impressed P. Diddy enough for him to offer backing on the spot.) Instead, Glodell’s film reflects the rage of late-adolescence, a time many of us have lived through but never articulated. The film wanders through the purgatory of romance and action. When the love interest betrays Woodrow near the film’s end, he asks her why, and she has no clue. The film, overall, is as bemused, though more blissfully than its angst-ridden ending would suggest. To enjoy “Bellflower,” you must appreciate its movieness and how it captures the frailty of the medium. In our meta-friendly milieu, it’s not a long shot.
During a recent phone interview, Glodell was honest and insightful, yet showed how a lot of the film was serendipity, a series of happy accidents.
When you first began making films, did you think about tributing “The Road Warrior” (a.k.a. “Mad Max 2”)?
When I first saw the movie, I just talked about the apocalypse with my friends. I rediscovered my love for “Mad Max “while writing and making this film.
Do you think that romance is good for a “Mad Max” tribute? Many viewers see the film this way.
Well, a lot of the responses I’ve heard talk about how my character wishes for the apocalypse and then gets it in the form of extreme heartbreak. I liked the idea of the apocalypse being the end of something and the beginning of something else.
Do you think that the anger and frustration of broken relationships is a parallel to the apocalypse and destruction?
I think they are different. But, well…that is a good question.
Your film made me think of the first love that one loses, and how a lack of experience in relationships makes it tough. At least, this relationship was the most intense that your character has ever had, and leads to his rage.
When you say rage, I think of power. I always saw [the scenes in the car in “The Road Warrior”] as moments of power, when he’s indestructible. That sense of power was an important element for me, and how that feeling turns into a loss of control.
How do you view your characters? Do you seem them as realistic or exaggerated?
They are realistic, but for me the film is twisted reality. It’s the kind of situation that we think is real but we then realize isn’t.
Are these characters overgrown kids to you – young adults holding on to their adolescence and lack of responsibility?
That’s definitely one way of seeing it. It’s interesting that you say “overgrown kids,” because I think of how common this type is nowadays. Is it still accurate to call them overgrown kids, or is that just one version of the modern young adult – not knowing what to do, what is your purpose?
Would you say the film is subjective to your character, how he sees the world? I wonder about what responsibilities he and Aiden have, such as jobs, since it seems they have none.
It goes back to the sense of twisted reality. It is supposed to seem real, but some elements are purposely left out.
Would you say the film begins as utopia, with Woodrow and Aiden making their weapons by day and partying by night, and then descends?
At the beginning of the film my character is complaining about not being able to do all the girls in the bar. So not everything is there yet. The film does show a dreamlike version of Woodrow and Milly’s relationship developing, though the little hints of trouble are there, like when she says she will hurt him. I remember during a breakup when I felt that everything was so good, and didn’t remember all the bad stuff. And as time went on, at one point, I only remembered the good things. Though a friend reminded me about the bad times.
“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” does a great job of showing that.
I actually watched that movie while I was working on the script, early on. And it made me really upset, one of the worst experiences I have had watching a movie. It brought back painful memories.
Yeah, to me it’s all about how you remember relationships – in pieces, with the good and the bad. Would you say that Milly is the ideal girl for Woodrow?
Wow, that’s interesting.
She seems like an ideal projection for him.
Yeah, he sees himself as really exciting though he’s actually timid with women. He builds all this stuff, blow things up…then he meets a girl who’s actually crazy. So yeah, she would be his projection.
Can you talk about how her character came to you?
She is based on someone I dated. And by the end, she’s probably a mix of a couple of girls in my past. Most of my characters come from someone I’ve known. I can’t write dialog unless I think of a specific person that I talked to.
I know that you built your own cameras. Did you feel like you had to build them for this film? Were they a necessity?
Only in that it was a hobby that I’ve had for a long time. It worked out well that I could use my cameras. As I wrote the script, I thought of different times that I could use a specific camera, which had its own look. Then, later I built a specific camera for a given shot.
At the end of the film, Woodrow and Aiden have an intimate moment when they say, pardon the paraphrase, we could go off together and avoid all this. Would you say you are consciously winking at the gay subtext in “The Road Warrior”?
Me, Tyler, and all of us have joked about the gay subtext in the script and how it works with “The Road Warrior.” I read one review saying that, if these guys knew how much gay subtext was in that film, they’d cry. Come on – we have characters calling each other Lord Humungous, who’s a naked, leather-clad guy, and Birdman, Wez’s blonde lover. We were on it.