’High on the Wings of Love’
’Dopamine’, named after the natural amphetamine our bodies produce when we’re falling in love, is a romantic drama for the hi-tech age. But, more than that, it is also the first film ever to go through every phase of the Sundance support network. From the Sundance Institute Labs, to the Sundance Film
Festival and on to the Film Series, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment and finally the Sundance Channel. Shot on high-definition video, ’Dopamine’ appeared at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival and was awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation prize at Sundance for outstanding independent films
featuring science and technology.
Rand (John Livingston, ’The Net’), and his two friends Winston (Bruno Campos,
’Jesse’) and Johnson (Rueben Grundy, ’40 Days and 40 Nights’) are passionate and driven computer programmers who have designed an artificial intelligence life form named Koy Koy. When forced by their investors to test Koy Koy in a kindergarten classroom, Rand meets Sarah (Sabrina Lloyd, ’Sports Night’), the teacher to whom he was inexplicably drawn to at his favorite bar one evening. Sparks fly, and Koy Koy becomes the catalyst for Sarah and Rand¹s spirited dialogue on the nature of romantic attraction and attachment, all the while getting to the root of whether love is chemical or chemistry. The film was directed by Mark Decena and written by Decena and Tim Breitbach and co-produced by Breitbach, Brian Benson and Liz Lupino Decena.
Taking some time out recently with co-writer Tim Breitbach and star John Livingston (‘Rand’), I first asked Tim if the artificial life technology that they created in the film actually exists? ”Yeah, a number of firms have done things like this in Japan, but for this we interpreted and then created.”
’Dopamine’ is slow-paced, methodical story-telling, so how do you expect your average fidgety moviegoer (whether it be at the theatre or on home video) to react to it? ”I will counter with I don’t think it’s slow-paced or methodical if you access the story. I think that people that deal with these issues: a loss of love or having fallen in love, have their point of view which allows them to access the movie. I think that traditional moviegoers that are looking for a fast-paced, action Hollywood blockbuster-type thing, well, obviously this isn’t for them. But, what we’re getting is a wide range of audiences from 18 year-old guys to 65 year-old women who can access the story in different ways because it’s about relationships – whether it be a romantic relationship or one with your parents and the choices you have to make in life. So, I think if you have to make any of those choices the last thing it is is methodical, but I do understand what you’re saying about that.”
The art gallery scene was easily the most powerful scene, but was it always meant to be such a pivotal scene? ”Oh yeah, it was definitely always a pivotal scene in which to show the true depth of the character Rand. One in which a lot of emotions come through. It’s interesting, because the scene itself in the Gallery had been cut a little differently at Sundance, which we allowed because we had to race to the deadline. But, now its back in and it’s such a beautiful one-take.”
Who did those paintings that we see on the Gallery walls? ”He’s actually a local painter that has had experience in that area.”
The black comedy humor is threaded throughout, but was this intentional from the start or just the way things panned out during? ”Well, it was always an extremely clever and funny script, but it kinda lacked some human depth and emotion and so through various re-writes it got, I would say, less funny,” he wryly smiles.
Now chatting one-on-one with star, John Livingston (‘Rand’), referencing his understated, yet at all times quietly-progressive character, I wondered if he’d learnt anything about himself from the role? ”Well, yeah, it was very personal to me working on this role, but it wasn’t so much what I learnt about myself as that I simultaneously in playing this role went through things. I went through some personal growth.”
What does this film mean to you? ”For me, the bottom line of this film has to do with feelings and that love rehabilitates and that these two characters are in different ways recovering from a major loss. They are wounded and through meeting each other love is trying to help heal them. And my character has to make some considerations he has in order to let love take them where it’s trying to take them. And at the time that this project came into my life I was feeling some feelings just like that and so I had some direct personal experience that I could put into that. So, it was rehabilitative for me to work on this role as it really was a part of a major change in my life.”
Tell me more about the character ‘Rand’ ”I think that he was emotionally wounded from the loss of his mother. I mean, the trauma of losing his mother the way he did, and we don’t know what his history with women or relationships really is, but I think in the story the loss of his mother and the wound that he has from that is a wound that needs to be overcome. And love is the only thing that can do that for him.”
What does the Art Gallery scene say to you? ”I think that the realization that he has in the Art Gallery scene, which is also my favorite scene in the movie, is that as he sees this progression of paintings that this artist has done as Alzheimer’s was setting in, and I think that they serve as almost communication from his mother. Like he’s learning what she went through. Getting a reality out of what emotionally it was like for her. I think that the realization that kinda broke my heart to think about was just because she wasn’t capable of being there and loving him, doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been there loving her.”
You have a degree in Psychology, so is this a possible field for you to explore after acting?! ”Probably not, but that is a part of acting, you know,” he smiles. ”I started studying acting in college and ended up getting a degree in Psychology because I wasn’t pleased with the acting program there. But as an actor, you’re dealing with human behavior as an actor and as Psychology is the study of human behavior, after all. So as an actor you figure out what’s going on with the character and then you figure out how to translate that from the pages.”
Finally, any subliminal thoughts that people could leave this movie with?! ”I really think that in life, love is always trying to happen to us and not just romantic love, but love and life is there all the time. They’re trying to happen to us and we’re doing everything we can to dodge it. We need to hold still and let love happen,” he smiles broadly.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Exclusive engagement is at the Loews Star Theatre Great Lakes (4300 Baldwin Rd, Auburn Hills, MI) from October 10th.
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