BEA1991

writes a love letter

to

Terry Gilliam

Illustration by

Madeleine Kemsley

Dutch artist BEA1991 has always taken a multi-disciplinary approach to her music - releasing a series of conceptual visuals and a short film alongside her latest album Brand New Adult. Her genre-eschewing sound suggests a diverse range of influences, and collaborators (she's worked with Blood Orange and Porches).We asked Bea to write a love letter to an artist whose work has inspired her. Read her thoughtful tribute to director Terry Gilliam below:

Dearest Terry Gilliam, 

 

Exactly how often I watched your movies as a kid, I’m not sure. They were always my first choice. They made me feel recognised, a little underaged, adventurous, fantastically engaged. Watching your stories unfold on a screen made me want to point, jump up and say, I told you so, look! It's true! Buildings can fly! People can talk out of their arse. Time travel is a piece of cake, at least for the strong minded. You’re all losers for not understanding. 

 

I never realised the length of your movies until I re-watched them a little later in life. Perhaps as a child, I either fell asleep mid way and thus watched them over and over (video tape), or I just had a long attention span for stuff like this. The magic-realism, hyper real and DIY-set design swoosh embedded into all your decors, your entire production, sly & cunning but simultaneously 100% transparent, the very paradox of watching a man trip clumsily and fall over brick when meanwhile the sea clods into a huge giant flower that starts talking about a tinder experience (this is me trying to be visually creative) - you get me - the juxtapositions, of human innocence, missions of love, every day life and petty miscommunications, mixed in with absolute extreme fantasies, well integrated and very much alive in their presentation, as a child, was everything I ever wanted. 

 

Apart from the work you made and the contributions to Monty Python, what you seem to be as a person strikes me as a hugely independent force. You make the impression of an ever excited toddler, leaning over the edge of a fence, looking below, searching for a surprising sort of “meaning to it all” whilst never being disenchanted - for if you’d be met with disappointment, you’d solve it with humour. Am I right? 

 

Somehow, you’re known as a director always neck-deep in production problems, to the extent of films not realised at all, but did that stop you doing what you wanted? Nah. You worked in an environment, and with actors, and expectations all very much hollywood-like, commercial structures, but managed to take the piss, to do it your way, to bypass them all with a determination and optimism so strong that no one would hack you. I read that you once became so stressed during the making of Brazil that you temporarily lost the use in your legs. You waited a few weeks and your legs came back to you. I’ve also read that you turned down a number of big director jobs including Alien, TROY, and Forrest Gump - for reasons only you know, and I could guess. But it all adds up, and I take comfort visualising you in a ripped up wicker chair, sun faded T-shirt with a silly cartoon on it, script in one hand, soggy cigarette in the other, some dorky band playing in the background and you snorting with quiet laughter - “they must be kidding...” 

 

Both Bergman fans, I think we enjoy the difference between someone who takes themselves seriously but is ready for a hack, and someone who is eager to bring on humour, but could never take a whipping. 

 

I think - I can tell - you don’t make the creativity or humour of a story or movie the “priority”. it doesn’t need to be made a priority because it is factual. It is what the entire project is built on, it's the primary element. It's perhaps what comes out of you first? What might be a priority to you however, is how you let the rest fall into place without concessions being made. How do you involve every aspect in making this story come together, without losing the very primal and raw sense of vulnerability amongst the protagonists, and the mysterious personality of the fantasy? 

 

Now - I’m going to try and not idealise that greed for autonomy, because I think essentially everyone wants their autonomy, and its also a very strong deed to let go of that need sometimes, and let others decide, let the rush of life take over. Step back and see what happens. Not letting chances slip by in the vain of proof that you’re talented, or special, or different - but to do or make something so freely that it can fall into the hands of anyone and be understood, can offer an open door to their inner world. Having said that, working hard to defend your personal approach (whilst making the project happen) is probably the toughest thing to do, especially for an introvert, and so applaudable. 

 

I think your work has often been misunderstood in big corporate cinemas, or presented the wrong way by trailers conveying something that the movie isn’t. Maybe I’m wrong.. your work reached a certain amount of people who know what you’re on about and feel connected because of it. Your work has fed them, “them” not being a large group perhaps, not a commercial amount, not a crowd so large beyond your imagination (!) but I’m sure you caught the attention of the people who really, really care. 

 

I’m so happy to have been immersed in your world from a young age. its not just fantasy, its not just hyperrealism, or juxtapositions fit to rearrange the inner landscape of a child, adolescent and even grown ups - its a reminder that doing your own bloody thing is what will, in the long run, make it all count. It’s an ongoing ode, a shoutout to your deepest, weirdest desires, the humanity in them, and the freedom you can feel when you share them playfully & blatantly. 

 

There’s shyness, feeling like a nerd, unease, insecurity, miscommunications, dry humour used as self protection - if all these traits also appear in fantasyland, they must be really real. 

Like the animals and people typically bursting through your walls or ceilings, on a mission of some ecstatic kind, I’d like to end this letter with a big crunchy bang, and say 

 

THANK YOU FOR BEING A TROOPER OF COLLECTIVE FANTASY A MOVIE MAKING LEGEND AND A FUN HUMAN ! 

 

Thanks Terry. Thanks for leaving Hollywood all confused, and making us happy.

 

xoxo BEA1991 

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