Sundance Features

January 22, 2008

Boaz Yakin, Death in Love

"It's really about the cycles and the psychological patterns that are passed down from generation to generation."

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

THE REELER: For those of us at the disadvantage of not having seen Death in Love, can you briefly describe the story?

BOAZ YAKIN: It is a hard one to describe, but it follows the parallel stories of 40-year-old man battling sort of a midlife depression and the story of his mother, who was a teenager in a Nazi concentration camp and had an affair with a doctor in charge of human experimentation. It's a story of what happens in the '90s when this figure from her past comes back to reclaim her in a way -- her long-lost love. Again, it's a hard one to describe, but that's the arena.

R: What drew you to the story and when?

BY: From the start of the script until now has been about 10 months. It's really about the cycles and the psychological patterns that are passed down from generation to generation. It's about how we as individuals often think that we're acting based on our own lives when we're really acting based on things that happened before we were even born. We're acting on psychological patterns that we don't even know the origins of. I think the film really came from my own exploration with therapy and thinking about my own life and my own psychological patterns -- my need to creatively interpret that.

R: "Patterns" like what?

BY: I think I came to a point in my life where I was repeating certain cycles and patterns -- emotional patterns, relationship patterns, sexual patterns -- and I just realized that there's this cycle that's going on. I really need to explore it. The film, if you're going to distill it to anything, is about how these cycles are repeated through the concept of the family. And it's a very sexual film. It deals very strongly with sexuality and how sexuality is influenced by emotional needs and frustrations that are and aren't met in families. Emotional voids in families lead to emotional and sexual frustrations later in life with other people. The film deals with a lot of that.

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R: This is also very much a New York film. Can you take a second to describe some of your own influences from the city's cinema, particularly with regard to Death in Love?

BY: I grew up in New York, and I think that there's this feeling that people who grow up in New York or any really big city understand -- there can often be a feeling of total loneliness in the midst of a gigantic crowd. It's kind of a unique, metaphysical, big-city loneliness, and if there's any part of the New York atmosphere that the film tries to explore, it's that feeling of being surrounded by people, noise [and] activity, but being kind of emotionally and spiritually cut off from you surroundings so that the more busy and active the world around you is, in a way, the lonelier the feeling.

R: You've got a history with Sundance, but you haven't been there with a film in a decade. What are you expecting or looking forward to upon your return?

BY: I've heard it's become quite a zoo; I've read about it, obviously, and about how crazy and how pressurized it's become. I'm looking forward to it, of course, but this is a self-financed film. Every penny was put in by me; it's my life savings. Obviously I'm hoping to go up there and make a sale and meet the right people who are going to put it out there in the right way. So it's very important in that I really put so much of myself into this. I'm not trepidacious about it in that it's the first time on my life I've done this. It's my movie. Every aspect of it --it's a film that was made by me and the collaborators who worked with me, the producers, the artists who made the film with me. Essentially it's an opportunity to show our work now and show it in the best possible light. I think it's fun and exciting in that I don't owe anything to anybody. It's just me, and I just want people to see it and get a sense of it, and for me, it's just a reward. So I'm pretty excited about it.

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