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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

Apr 11, 2024

Film review: Karen Knox's masterpiece: 'We Forgot to Break Up' - A symphony of self-discovery and artistic triumph

In the world of indie rock and elusive dreams, "We Forgot to Break Up," directed by the brilliantly talented Karen Knox, emerges as a compelling narrative that dives deep into the heart of artistic ambition, identity, and the complex journey of self-discovery. This film, which made its mark at BFI Flare, is a visceral adaptation of Kayt Burgess' award-winning novel "Heidegger Stairwell," artfully bringing to life the tumultuous story of a band of misfits who abandon their mundane small-town life for the glimmering hope of becoming indie rock deities in the vastness of the city.

In an exclusive interview, Knox reveals what initially drew her to Burgess’ story, describing it as a tale wrapped in "late 90’s gilded squalor" where "gorgeous people" find themselves in "disgusting places." She explains her unique cinematic approach, blending different formats to reflect the dual timelines of the story: "I wanted to bring that feeling tothe screen by combining two cinematic formats: one shot on Hi8 Sony Handycam...and the other, a more glamorous jewel-hued contemporary style."

Knox delves into the core of the narrative, the "romantic torture of the characters," emphasizing the confusion between the desire for others and the longing for personal transformation. "This book is about the protagonist having todisentangle himself from those beliefs through a slow trek of self-destruction...This film is about the end of a beginning."

Through the band's journey, Knox aimed to explore the raw and often humiliating essence of teenage artistry. "I have always been drawn to the endearing humiliation of teenage art making," Knox says, capturing the fervent, if naive, dedication to their craft alongside the humorous pitfalls of their development.

Reflecting on the production challenges, Knox shares insights into the flexibility required in filmmaking, recounting a specific moment where adaptability was key: "Sometimes that meticulous tracking shot you’ve spent hours planning just isn’t going to work - and you must abandon it quickly and enthusiastically."

On navigating the dual roles of director and actor, Knox discusses the creative freedom it offers, despite the inherent challenges: "It can be chaotic, but I love that it invites a spirit of creative generosity." This approach fosters a collaborative atmosphere that is less about hierarchy and more about mutual creativity and exploration.

Knox's directing philosophy, shaped by past experiences and projects like "Adult Adoption" and "HOMESCHOOLED," prioritizes diplomacy and collaboration. "If someone has a better idea than you, say yes to it quickly and graciously," she remarks, highlighting the importance of adaptability and humility in the creation of a compelling narrative.

As for what drives her creative vision, Knox is candid about her evolving passions: "Right now I’m really excited by the emerging genre of hybrid narrative/doc...We have cameras with us all the time, and the ability to create a compelling story has never been more accessible."

Looking ahead, Knox teases her excitement for upcoming projects, particularly "Elicit Illicit," a film that probes the intersection of intimacy and technology. She also mentions "The Year of Staring at Noses," a personal project that resonates with her ongoing exploration of identity and reality.

"We Forgot to Break Up" is a testament to Karen Knox's directorial genius, weaving together a narrative that is as profound as it is poignant. Through her visionary lens, the film transcends the boundaries of indie cinema, offering a heart-wrenching exploration of the human condition, the transformative power of art, and the eternal quest for personal and artistic authenticity.

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