The idea of living “off-grid” will be one that appeals to many of us. Too much time spent slumped in front of a computer or spread out on the sofa watching TV, quickly becomes tiresome and the idea of ditching technology and living off the land has a real poetic ring to it. In Emily Kai Bock’s A FUNERAL FOR LIGHTNING we follow a young couple who opt into this more basic lifestyle, but the idyllic situation quickly starts to feel like a trap for Mandy, as her husband doesn’t seem as committed to the idea as he first made out.
“The film is told through the perspective of a young woman as she untangles the ideals that she believed in”
Told from Mandy’s perspective, Kai Bock’s 24-minute film is a leisurely-paced short that follows Mandy and her growing despair at the situation she finds herself in. A film of quiet moments and low-key drama, our isolated protagonist finds herself left for days in their small house in the middle of nowhere, often without food or a way to access her friends or the outside world. Now seven months pregnant, with her husband spending more and more time away from home – chasing a career as a musician, along with chasing other women – A FUNERAL FOR LIGHTNING immerses us in Mandy’s state-of-mind, as our empathy for her situation grows with her feeling of malaise.
“The film is told through the perspective of a young woman as she untangles the ideals that she believed in and the reality she faces daily”, Kai Bock explains in a director’s statement. For me, it’s the way the director contrasts the early days of the relationship (Mandy is all smiles, playfully wrestling with her husband), with the end, as things fall apart, that is the most interesting part of A FUNERAL FOR LIGHTNING’s narrative. A film intent on showing the idealistic vision of love, compared to the more sobering reality, Mandy is ultimately abandoned and, as Kai Bock explains, we’re invited to try and make sense of “how she got where she is and where to go from there”.
“We wanted to, as much as possible, speak with the power of the image and not through heavy-handed dialogue or exposition”
With the story presented in a fragmented non-linear fashion, with sparse dialogue throughout, Kai Bock and her cinematographer Evan Prosofsky knew the photography of the film would be essential to draw the viewer close to their main character and break through her guarded persona. “Emily’s film is filled with these beautiful, quiet, “in-between” moments. Reading the script, I knew I had to find a way to let these moments speak for themselves”, Prosofsky explains. “We wanted to, as much as possible, speak with the power of the image and not through heavy-handed dialogue or exposition”.
Adopting an aesthetic they’d already found success with in a previous collaboration – the Afterlife video for Arcade Fire – the pair decided to revisit an approach which Prosofsky describes as blending “70mm dream sequences and 35mm moments of reality”. Putting their limited budget towards shooting film, they opted to cut back in other areas and filmed with a small crew and natural light (as much as possible).
“The clarity and depth seemed almost transformative”
The decision certainly pays off. A FUNERAL FOR LIGHTNING is a striking looking film and the photography not only helps immerse you in Mandy’s headspace, but also adds to the authentic feel of the piece. Prosofsky was certainly happy with what they achieved, admitting that he was “blown away by the way 70mm gives each shot an emotional punch”, adding that “the clarity and depth seemed almost transformative, breaking free of the romantic gaze 35mm so frequently offers”.
Having built her reputation through a series of impressive music videos – the videos for Grimes’ Oblivion and Lorde’s Yellow Flicker Beat most notable, with over 140-million views combined – A FUNERAL FOR LIGHTNING was Kai Bock’s first foray into narrative filmmaking and had a successful festival run, including screening at TIFF.