One of the most eye-opening and subtle films about grief and suicide, the moving documentary sees the director Orlando von Einsiedel and his family talk about the suicide of his brother Evelyn for the first time. Read our interview with Evelyn cinematographer Franklin Dow here.
Documentary director Orlando von Einsiedel goes in front of the camera for the first time in his latest film, Evelyn. The film documents his family’s decision to try to confront, if not come to terms with his brother Evelyn’s suicide thirteen years ago.
As family and friends go on a long hiking trip to visit Evelyn’s favourite places, they open up about their own complicated emotions and their relationship to their sibling, son, or friend. It is, of course, a very difficult film to watch, but also an extremely cathartic one, showing people making considerable efforts to be vulnerable about something which they couldn’t even bring themselves to talk about for so long. The film is one of the most intelligent about suicide and grief, showing that there are no easy answers or solutions to either of those tragedies, but that talking about them helps share the burden of that suffering.
We interviewed director Orlando von Einsiedel about making a film with his close friends and family, creating a safe environment for them all to be open, directing as opposed to being on camera, and editing a film that is so close to his heart.
7R: Did you have the idea to make Evelyn for a long time? How did it come about?
Orlando von Einsiedel (OvE): I wish we’d made this earlier. But I struggled to say my brother’s name for 13 years, and I just couldn’t think about him. It was too painful to talk about in my family.
Joanna [Natasegara, the producer] and I were launching our last film, The White Helmets and for the last ten years, we’d been basically making films about other people who were going through real difficulty and traumatic things. We were talking at this film festival about what we should do next; I was telling Joanna about some ideas I had for films that very much followed that same trajectory. We’d known each other for eight years, but we’d never had a conversation, in all that time, about my brother, and I think Jo could see something… That there was something blocked in me. And she just came out and said: “Would you ever consider making a film about your own family?”
I was really angry that she’d asked, because I thought, “I’ve never told you about this, why would I make a film about it?” But as the conversation carried on, I started to think, “Why have I got so angry that she just asked me? That’s a problem.” There’s no way she could have known, but it was the 2nd of September, which is the anniversary of my brother’s death. It was so strange. It kind of just almost felt, well, maybe it is the right moment to do this. Maybe that’s a sign.
The weird thing is, I always thought that ultimately, my family would never agree to this. Even if, in my head, I could go to this idea that maybe there was a film to be made there, my family would never agree, so actually, I’ll never have to go through it myself.
7R: But then, they did agree to do it.
Orlando von Einsiedel: The moment I said to them, “How about we do this walk: we go to places where we spent time with Evelyn when he was alive, and we talk about this thing?,” they all said yes. I think they’d all been waiting to have this conversation, and this was a way to do it.
7R: Was the walk always going to be filmed for Evelyn? Was it ever going to just be a walk?
Orlando von Einsiedel: The walk was always going to be filmed. In the initial conception, it was just me with a video camera. But in conversations with Jo and the rest of the team, I realised that, in some ways, that was a way for me to protect myself. Because I could still hide behind the camera. The more we talked about it, the more I realised that the most honest way of doing this film was for me to be on camera. So eventually, I got forced to be in front of the camera!
Read our interview with Evelyn cinematographer Franklin Dow here.
This is an excerpt. Read the full interview in our ebook on creative nonfiction…
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