DARRELL WASYK (2012) - Page 1

Back in 1990, Darrell Wasyk made H, what could be called an ‘ultra low budget’ film for $20,000, shot on 16mm film and starring two people. The indie character piece earned critical praise, was picked up for distribution by Alliance in Canada, and won a Genie Award for Best Actress (Pascale Montpetit), and was nominated for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.

Wasyk followed up with Mustard Bath (1993) starring Michael Riley and Martha Henry (Dancing in the Dark [M]), and then directed 5 episodes of TV’s The Hunger. The Girl in the White Coat (2011) marks Wasyk’s return to feature filmmaking after 18 years, and reunites the filmic collaboration between the director and Montpetit.

In our discussion we touch upon translating Nikolai Gogol’s story “The Overcoat” to contemporary Montreal, and H – a film that’s virtually vanished from distribution, but may soon emerge on DVD after its home video debut 22 years ago.


The Girl in the White Coat poster


Mark R. Hasan: What attracted you to the Nikolai Gogol story?


Darrell Wasyk: I guess my whole interest in human nature sort of attracted me to his short story of “Diary of a Madman,” and after [that] I fell in love with his writing, and I started reading things like “The Nose,” and eventually I got to “The Overcoat,” and then I sort of put it away for a while, not really thinking of adapting it; just reading it for my own pleasure.

One day I picked up “The Overcoat” again and re-read it, and for some reason the character read to me as though it would be an interesting character for Pascal Montpetit and I to work on, even though the lead character is a male character. Just the sensitivity of the man and the whole sort of element of the Italian neo-classics: just a simple story told very simply, almost like a fable.

For some reason I just saw Pascale playing the part very clearly [and] doing a film version of it. Of course, there’s not enough material in the short story for her to play a feature film in, so I had to take great liberties and add parts to it and change different elements to make it relevant today. That’s why I don’t say it’s an adaptation; it was more ‘inspired by.’


MRH: I like some of the references you made to the original story, such as the character’s obsessiveness with paper stock, her meticulousness (fussing over the coin box, being highly protective of a disintegrating coat), and an allusion to the Russian setting by giving her a Russian landlord.


DW: I wanted to remain as faithful as I could, but at the same time I needed to take great liberties, so to be safe, I wanted to call it an inspiration.


MRH: Was this a more difficult film for you to write than your other two films, H (1990) and Mustard Bath (1993)?


DW: Mustard Bath was more difficult to write. H was probably the easiest to write, just because it was ready to come out of me. I sat down and wrote H in two weeks [and] shot it in two weeks; actually, I shot The Girl in the White Coat in two weeks. Mustard Bath had of course many characters, and you’re following many more plot lines, whereas in H we were dealing with two characters in one room, and in Girl in the White Coat we were basically dealing with one character who is very isolated, so [those two] were easier to focus on.

The Hunger: Season 1 DVD

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