The twisted crime romance Greater Than had its Toronto Premiere as part of the 2014 Blood in the Snow Film Festival’s Short Film Showcase and it also won the award for Best Short. At the festival, I sat down with writer/director Darryl Shaw and lead actress Dana Tartau to discuss the film. Please note that this interview features some major SPOILERS for the plot of the film.
Sean Kelly: How did the idea for the film come about?
Darryl Shaw: Dana and I were hanging out, trying to figure out a project to do together. I really believe in her acting, but I didn’t feel she was getting the kind of roles she should be getting.
Dana Tartau: We were just thinking of ideas. We were bouncing ideas off each other and Darryl came up with idea of having some sort of film with amputation and amputees. So, starting from there, we decided to make it a love story – the ultimate love story, if I may say so – and we started to put the story together and Darryl did his magic and wrote the script.
Sean: What were your inspirations for the film?
Darryl: I could see Dana in the role – I could really picture the character we were talking about. I guess for the theme of the movie, with the cutting, I thought that it would be such a strange feeling to receive a severed arm as a gift. I wondered how someone would react to that, not just that they found a severed arm, but that someone is actually giving it to them. I feel that it would be both flattering and terrifying and you’d almost get like a God complex is someone did that to you.
Sean: Or he hangs it on the wall.
Dana: We are talking about trophies right? You have a trophy wife or a trophy arm. Take the arm man, take the arm.
Sean: What was the most challenging thing about making the film?
Darryl: We did a lot of reshoots to get the polish we wanted.
The locations were tough – we had a lot of locations and some of them fell through on the same day that we had to shoot them and we just scrounged and powered through and found other places to shoot.
After we wrapped principal photography, it kind of stagnated, because we ran out of money. So, Dante Winkler, who did the post-production sound, helped do a trailer for free – really made it great – and through that we were able to raise the remaining funds to get the rest of post-production finished.
Sean: There’s a brief little dream sequence after the guy severs his own arm. What’s that all about?
Darryl: That’s inspired by my love of Italian horror movies, like Michele Soavi. In the dream sequence, Adam’s character has just cut off his arm and he sees Dana embracing somebody else with both of her arms. The meaning of the dream sequence is his own insecurity, after cutting off his arm. He is giving, literally, a part of himself and it’s a moment of doubt, where he wonders if that was really the intention of her giving it to him. He is questioning the purity of receiving it.
Sean: Also, the ending of the film itself is a bit ambiguous, because he resorts to strapping a bomb to himself.
Darryl: The intention there is: At the beginning Dana’s character mentions her sister was killed by a bomb and that sort of guilt has been chasing her, her whole life – she wears the pendant of the shrapnel that killed her sister – and that’s kind of the beginning of the unravelling of her character. Adam’s character sees that’s the only thing that can really give her peace, is if she joins her sister, but he goes with her, so she doesn’t have to be afraid. And it’s like the last gift that they can give each other.
Part of it is budget – we weren’t able to blow something up – but, I thought it didn’t matter. Once they pushed the trigger of the bomb, I figured that, as long as they made that decision, that’s what was important – is that they would do that for each other. So, whether it blows up or not is less important.
Dana: And more than anything, I think it’s a way of him keeping his promise to me of not sending me back, because that was one of the things that I was terrified of – going back. And that’s the only way he can keep me from going back. So, I think in a way, it’s a very selfless gift.