Austin Bright and Dark
A narrative film that reads almost like a documentary, Loves Her Gun unfolds around the fear and anxiety experienced by a woman victimized by a random act of violence. Allie, played by Trietse Kelly Dunn (of the Alan Ball TV series Banshee), uproots herself to the supposed magical innocence of Austin to escape the trauma of a violent attack she suffers on the streets of Brooklyn.
In an attempt to further regain her emotional footing and rectify the physical imbalance of power she experiences as a woman, Allie also purchases a handgun. As she learns, loving the wonderland that is Austin and the security of firearms both come with unforeseen consequences.
Directed by Austin filmmaker Geoff Marslett (Mars), who co-wrote the script with Lauren Modery of Hipstercrite fame (and, full disclosure, a contributor to CultureMap) and distributed by local indie film and gaming company Devolver Digital, Loves Her Gun premiered at SXSW 2013, running away with the prestigious Louis Black “Lone Star” Award.
Since then, the film has received numerous accolades in national publications, including Variety, The Village Voice and Salon. The New York Times also recently named it a critics’ choice for 2013. On the eve of its Austin screening of its limited run, Modery and Marslett sat down to discuss their complex and thoughtful movie with CultureMap.
As Modery noted, the film was something of an experiment for them both her and Marslett. Rather than produce a full script, they wrote 45 pages of scenes with definite beginnings and endings but with no actual written dialogue, allowing the actors to improvise their lines.
“I wanted to depict an Austin that has a lot of amazing things, but I also wanted to show that it has a lot of dark corners, too. It can be a scary, sad and isolating place as well." — director Geoff Marslett
“I wanted something that felt very real in a subtle way,” said Marslett. “It was a scary experience for everyone, particularly those with no background in improv.”
The film has a “documentary-esque” quality, as Geoff calls it, that lends itself to realism; there’s an almost quiet awkwardness to the film that draws in the viewer in a completely natural way. The depiction of a woman’s anxiety about violence is one of the most compelling aspects of Loves Her Gun and rings true to experience. The idea “was particularly based off of anxiety I was going through at the time concerning my physical safety in my home,” explained Modery. “It’s getting better now, but there were times when I was waking up with panic attacks every night.”
Loves Her Gun speaks to very real anxiety and resonates with a number of women. “We have heard from a lot of women who have appreciated that the movie was about fear of violence, because I think, as a whole, all women can relate to that,” said Modery. While moviegoers increasingly seem to want to experience cinematic violence by getting their faces melted off by some horrific stabbing or ax bludgeoning, Marslett says, “we wanted the attack to be brutal in a realistic way.”
Loves Her Gun is one of those rare films that embodies Austin as it is today — so much so that the city almost became a character in and of itself. However, Marslett explains, “I wanted to depict an Austin that has a lot of amazing things, but I also wanted to show that it has a lot of dark corners, too. It can be a scary, sad and isolating place as well.”
Live here long enough, in other words, and that’s just part of the deal. Sometimes you drink too much and say things you regret, sometimes love triangles are messy and sometimes parties just go way too far. Allie discovers these facts of life when she looks to objects and places to create safety. As with the city of Austin and her gun, she finds that everything outside of one’s own personal evolution is unstable.
Austin is a lot of things, and, as Loves Her Gun captures, it is probably most pointedly a master of misdirection.
Loves Her Gun screens Wednesday, January 22, at Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline. Marlsett will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening.