Lynne Sachs: An American Original
By Tom Erikson
“I just tumbled into filmmaking,” Lynne Sachs admits. “It made so much sense to me. It gave me a chance to pull in poetry, looking at trees, listening to the sounds of grasshoppers, cars, and babies. The words go with reflections on politics to parables. And all of it can fall into this vessel that’s a film I might make. Film is completely full of possibilities.”
A bicoastal artist and teacher, Lynne Sachs is presently teaching film at Rutgers University while in process with her fourth short feature, A Biography of Lilith. Last week she participated in The Roxie Cinema’s Madcap Women’s Film and Video Festival, screening two early 1990s works, The House of Science and Which Way is East, as well as excerpts from Lilith. The new film combines narrative, documentary, and experimental techniques to tell the story of Adam’s first partner, who was thrown out of the garden of Eden for, as Sachs puts it, “wanting to be on top in sex.”
“Lilith has been demonized throughout the history of Jewish and Middle Eastern culture,” Sachs explains. “She is pretty much absent from the Bible, except for a cameo appearance as a minor demon in the Book of Isiah, but she is a character that has moved through Jewish mysticism for centuries. The Cabala discusses her. And she turns up as a character on the TV show Cheers. For all different reasons people feel connected to Lilith.”
At first, Sachs was having difficulty capturing on film the sequences that would convey her main character’s story. The experienced actress cast in the role “had not lived a Lilith life,” Sachs discovered, so she was recast as Eve and a New York stripper was hired. The woman, although not trained as an actress, inhabited the role so perfectly that Sachs was inspired to film her in a series of documentary style interviews that greatly expand the themes of the piece. Poetry and music have also been included – personal poems by the director, songs of the East Bay a cappella trio Charming Hostess, and music by San Francisco composer Pamela Z, for instance. All of this – combined with a running narrative of Sachs’ own reactions to the emotional complications of her two pregnancies, and filmed sonograms and footage of the birth of her first child, Maya – will make for an extremely affecting movie.
“Every film I’ve made has involved a total immersion in a subject,” Sachs explains. “That’s why they take so long. I have done an incredible amount of research for Lilith because I want it to be not only about the most personal things, but also about aspects of life that are out there in the world that I have no knowledge of. So the film explores certain aspects of Judaism, while it has also been about accepting the precariousness of being a mother and an artist.”
“A film goes with you wherever you go,” Sachs concludes. “It’s similar to how some people want religion to be. It can be both a solace and a place of incredible emotional controversy. You can’t put you finger on it. Its about a way of being. You live inside it.”