This is a tough one. I wrote “Beloved” at a time of great turbulence in my life. My grandfather was on his death bed, dying of lung cancer, but he was in Hospice so we had no idea when he would actually go. I was going through a roller coaster of emotions surrounding his death. I started thinking about death in our culture: how we find out about death. How death impacts us. The changing relationships with how we regard people after they die.
To give you some background, I had had a, shall we say, “turbulent?” relationship with my grandfather. We had been at odds, and then estranged for most of my life, until the last Christmas I saw him, 3 weeks before he would pass away. In the last visit I had with him, we had a five minute conversation that changed everything I had thought about him. He went from being cold hearted and cruel, to being a loving and supportive grandfather. It sent me for a spin.
After seeing him, I returned to the Bay Area wanting to know more about his life. Particularly the world he grew up in, and his world in the Navy. I dove into watching war documentaries to try and get an accurate picture. While watching these, I began to imagine what it was like for the fiance’s and wives back home in the states. What they went through while their loved ones were overseas fighting in an unimaginable war. That was the start of Beloved.
I imagined a form of forbidden love between a couple who were engaged, who didn’t have his family’s approval. How would she find out the news if something were to happen to him? She would not be next of kin. They would not have to tell her. I imagined a situation where she received a group of letters from him, sent from a friend, after he had died.
Letters are the most bittersweet way to find out news. We rarely receive letters anymore, but the loaded emotion and seeming presence of the person who wrote the letter can have a tremendous impact. You hold the paper that the person wrote on, where they put their thoughts on pen and paper. But they are not there. You cannot actually hold them close, and protect them.
There also seemed to be an extended level of sadness in finding out about a passing in the form of a letter. You are so alone, reading something so intimate and so mind blowing. Especially for our heroine in this short, she had no idea it was coming. I wanted to tell a story of a woman who had no idea tragedy was about to strike. Who would undergo tremendous pain, after tremendous joy.
At the time of writing, I had no idea how this would parallel my own life. After tremendous joy in seeing my family again; being reunited after four years apart, I was about to fall into the most tragic set of months I had experienced in seven years. Tremendous pain after tremendous joy. After my world fell apart, I was more raw than I could have ever expected, and couldn’t even think of filming Beloved. But as the months passed, I realized that art might be the most soothing thing to heal my wounds.
I hope this short makes you think. I hope you catch your breath, and hold your loved ones a little closer after watching it.