Linda Larson’s “A Cabin in Time” merges classic horror, fantasy, science fiction, and poetry in a tale about one woman’s ability to travel back in time in order to correct a fateful error. I caught up with Larson over email to discuss her film that shakes up everything we know about life, death, and transcendence.
Tell me a bit about when and how you conceived “A Cabin in Time.”
A couple of years ago, my mother and aunt died. I was close to both. It made me think about death and mortality. I also had two surgeries of my own. I began to wonder about the fragility and finality of people’s lives and the choices we make. I thought of my twin brother who died in war. What if he hadn’t become a soldier. Like my favorite poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, what if he followed a different path and lived? What if we could go back and take away the sadness and death of those who die young. My brother and I had always loved science fiction. I remembered one of his books where a couple dies and reincarnates over and over and are tied together throughout time, finally ending where the man is now the woman and the woman the man.
When I’m driving at night on an empty country road, I feel like there is no end. I think about “The Twilight Zone” episode where the woman drives on and on, not realizing she had died in an accident hours before. I read extensively on death, ghosts, time travel, and the afterlife. I thought about the Terri Schiavo case where the people fought over whether to allow the husband to pull the plug on her life. I thought about mercy killing and the physical suffering many must endure.
I wanted to write my screenplay and find hope, that maybe, just maybe, life holds more than just the final spiritual nothingness. And I wanted the story to have heart. I find that setting the story in an old cabin can make time feel illusive, fleeting, and relevant. The mark people make on the world is there and then gone, or is it? Can places hold memories? It feels that way sometimes. What stories can they tell. With all these ideas whirling through me, I wrote my script.
You are obviously a speculative thinker. Can you discuss the philosophy underlying your film and our larger world?
Some of my philosophy is indicated in the first answer. But to condense, my philosophy is that people are not alone. The universe and people are there to help us and not just hurt us. So we shouldn’t give up. We need to call for help when needed. Sometimes the answers are not what we expect, but we can still find happiness. There is a way through cruelty and darkness. And, I believe, in the end our souls will go on and never truly die. It’s so hard to stay positive, but people must or there is no point to living.
Are there any particular writers and thinkers who influenced your work?
I loved Ingmar Bergman’s film “Cries and Whispers” which focuses on close- ups of death and women’s fears. Again I always adored the fascinating science fiction show, “The Twighlight Zone”, and the romantic time travel film, “Somewhere in Time.” I was also influenced by books like “Many Lives, Many Masters” and other psychics.
At which point do you veer from these thinkers and philosophers?
Some psychics go more far out then I can accept, like the idea of souls from the past jumping into a person in the here and now. Some writers and filmmakers find no spiritual side to timelines of a soul but I do.
Can you discuss the theory of time and dimension?
My theories are that time never ends and that our physical world holds imprints or psychic memories from the past. Our fascinating challenge is to touch them and be able to bring them back at will. Many scientists feel there are many dimensions that exist parallel to our own. I’d like to think the past is one in a ghostly imprint.
Do you believe time travel is possible and that the past can be corrected in the present?
I believe time travel is possible, mentally and someday will be physically, hopefully. As to correcting the past, I’d like to think it possible but it would help some and hurt others. So perhaps the past is left in the past so that we can learn and move on. But for those it would help, it is so very tempting. Therefore I chose altering the past in my film. I noticed that the new television show, “Fast Forward,” seems to explore trying to correct individual pasts. I like the show because of their daring speculation here.
Tell about the character Samantha, played by you? Who is she and why is she ideal witness to those of another time and dimension?
Samantha is like everyman or everywoman or what they hope to be. She struggles through her life. She tries to love and live without being buried by the weight of grief and lose. But time has discouraged her and she feels lost and alone.She needs people and she needs to hope and be happy again. She is feeling like she is dying inside. She is a “cup” that needs to be spiritually filled and touched by humanity. By witnessing the past, she learns to reach out and feel others and by doing so, save herself. By not running away, she is helping the past as much as the God figure is in the story. Also, she can see that the soul and her essence can survive. She needs to witness the past and other dimensions. She needs to find her place in the universe and in time.
Is Samantha a credible witness?
Absolutely. She is sensitive and intelligent. She is open. Hate and anger do not blind her. And she needs to be healed.
Why did you choose to play the role?
I wanted the catharsis. And I am an actress and like to work.
Tell me about the character of Rachel. I understand her to be God, or a supreme angel with the power to act on God’s behalf. Am I correct in this assumption?
What is the role of God in this film and why has “she” befriended Samantha?
God is she in the film. If academics go back in their studies, there are references to God being female or having a co-female side. And humans are in the “image of God” so a woman would see God as female and a man would see the male. At least I like to imagine this. Thus Rachel imbodies God or the angel trying to get Rachel to recognize her/him and take her/his help. Sam needs to first accept God as her friend before she can accept help.
Remember Lucifer is also a fallen angel with much power, and that God is often described as angry or impatient in the Bible. Can we be sure your angel or God is not angry or evil?
I think Lucifer can never have power over God and only has the power we give him. Since much of the Bible is open to interpretation and Catholism changed it’s interpretation, I like to go with the New Testament’s assessment of God as loving and not raging against men and women.
Please discuss the human condition, society, politics and religion in the cinematic world you’ve invented?
In my cinematic world, human’s have lost their dreams, hope, faith in themselves, and happiness. They are incredibly sad and afraid. They must seek out the past in order to heal and be whole again. They cocoon themselves, as in the remote cabin of my film, for the healing.
How do these carry over to our contemporary condition? You might want to discuss this in terms of the H1N1 pandemic and the political and societal response. You may also want to discuss the war and terrorism and writings in the Koran.
The modern world makes us feel helpless and afraid because it’s so complex, I think. We lose ourselves which frightens us even more. This causes us to go primal and strike out so we can feel strong. We have war and terrorism in which people’s most brutal and ugly sides rear up. I think people need to pull back into themselves. Stand quietly and feel their surroundings. Feel a part of nature. Let spirituality come back and fill them up. The good side will follow. I haven’t studied the Koran exensively but have heard that it does not promote terrorism but parts have been pulled out of context and interpreted wrongly to substantiate the call for terrorist rages.
As a fimmaker, I am interested in filmmaking technicalities. Let’s discuss the opening, as we ride down the highway and enter the portal/tunnel. I notice your camera moves at a slow and jerky pace. Is this because we are entering a different dimension existing simultaneously with our own?
Yes, and because roads in life are not smooth.
Please also discuss your manipulation of sound to accentuate the altercation of time and dimension.
If a person considers whether it’s worse being deaf or blind, it’s surprising that deafness is the most isolating to people and affects their understanding of the world. I think sound thus is more important to how we feel the sense of time and dimensions than the visual. When horror music is added to support a picture, we fear. When we just have the picture, we say- “repulsive picture”, but don’t feel the intensity of fear. Sound forms our world and our perception of it. The old radio shows could tremendously excite our minds. Therefore, I used manipulation of sound extensively.
Do you have any flaws in your film in terms of context and story?
Oh, yes, sort of. “What can go wrong, will!” I orginally wrote a section that took us into the past in a different way, Mary and Rachel blended their voices and then separated. Mary and Rachel sensed each other’s presence in the cabin. Also Mary’s relationship with Angus was relived. But the shot footage was accidentally erased or totally missing after the shoot. It was discovered to be gone, when I started to put the film back together. So after I tore out my hair, sobbed, and hysterically frightened my cat and dog, I finally calmed down and tried to find a saving solution. I reorganized the story through sound effects and voice-overs from the past in order to make the story still work.
Please explain the final scene when Suzie, Samantha’s daughter who supposedly died at the age of two, calls Samantha on her cell phone. Why is Samantha so quick to believe that Suzie is a tangible caller, returned from the dead?
Samantha has seen the whole past change and incredible things happen to the people in the past. She is totally open. Her civilized doubt. She has regained her faith in God and herself. She no longer feels lost, worthless and disposable. She feels the intensity of a miracle. But the fact that her husband is still dead means that man/women must still feel the lose of those they love. It’s part of being human. We need the sad and the happy as part of life. We live and we physically die and move on. A child is closer to the essense of life, however, and is therefore God’s gift to Samantha. Similarly, the birth of the Christ child brought a new beginning to man/women’s journey in the world, life, and time.
What are your plans for the future, which is both past and now?
I plan to distribute “A Cabin in Time,” on my own if necessary. I had two offers but they were not good deals. I have 3 other scripts which I’m looking for financing and hope to film/ and perhaps direct. One is a sci-fi thriller, one a romantic sci-fi, and one a spy thriller. I have a comedy short that I need to put together and post on the web. I also am acting in a union play called “Glorious” in Phoenix during December and January. It’s a comedy and I love doing stage. I also act in other films and on television, and I am always seeking such further acting work.