Merland Hoxha is the director of a compelling new film being released in June titled The Departure. The film tells of a man who convinces his friend to try and seduce his girlfriend to see if she’ll betray him.
I imagine it was hard to condense such a hot button topic into a feature-length film?
It was definitely not easy. The main focus was to create a world where the characters’ actions seemed justified and believable. As viewers we do not need to believe that a story is common because what’s common is not as interesting. We do need to be able to believe though that each action makes sense when related to how a character is presented to us and that any reaction is likely to happen under the context the characters are thrown into. If you keep that in mind while writing and never lose track of the original idea of what you’re trying to portray, then you are likely to succeed.
Is “The Departure” based on anything you’ve experienced?
No, it’s not. What inspired me to do this is that as a writer I’ve always been intrigued about human psychology and what pushes people to make the most extreme decisions. I’m also fascinated by to what extent circumstances are responsible for someone’s behavior and also what causes people to make decisions that they never thought they were capable of. People can sometimes be their own worst enemies by creating their own problems; but what drives them into that direction in the first place? We’re all fascinated by this dark irrational side of our psyche and maybe that’s because it’s the most human element of it.
Did you talk to anyone who has gone through such a quandary?
No, I haven’t but I have asked people the following questions: “If you were to cheat on someone you really love, what would bring you to that decision and under what circumstance?” Or “How would you react if someone tested your loyalty by asking someone to try and seduce you?” Initially, I didn’t really find the answers I was looking for. Finding answers to what drives people to infidelity in seemingly perfect relationships was challenging, but at some point I was able to come up with something that could have worked, even if I wasn’t completely convinced by it. Then when we started filming and I had an epiphany on what needed to be changed on that scene in order to make it work perfectly, which was really a god-send. That’s one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment when you’re making a movie, as that’s where the filming process interlaces with writing, and it blends into a unified art form; it’s the true essence of the cinematic process. I always find that going into a project I prepare the story the best I can, while always making sure to remain open to changes, because many times decisions made while filming end up being the most inspirational and authentic.
It’s a film about trust, isn’t it? Why do you believe trust is so important in a relationship?
Absolutely! Trust is one of the foundations of a healthy relationship, if it’s not strong enough, it won’t endure any strains – the same way a building without a solid framework will collapse. The fact that this movie is about trust is also one of its main strengths; it makes it relatable to most people, and by that I mean that nearly everyone has been in a relationship in their life where there has been some sort of trust issues from either side. The Departure is definitely an extreme example of this, but that’s what ‘s fascinating about it; it tests the limit of human behavior in its relation to loyalty and how far someone’s suspicions can go. What can be a more extreme example of testing someone’s faithfulness than setting up a plan where someone they trust tries to seduce them?
What do these characters learn over the course of the film?
They learn that sometimes people are not who you really think they are; either they never really were who you thought, and what you’ve really been seeing is just an idealized version to which you’ve been accustomed and desensitized to, or simply because people change. People tend to change a lot more than we think they do.
If the film was playing at a Drive-In as the main attraction in a double feature bill – what would you recommend be the support feature?
I would probably screen 500 Days of Summer. They are both shot in LA and although they are very different movies, they both tell a story about relationships that don’t follow conventional expectations where it is all roses and sunshine.