It’s hard to create non formulaic and surprising films these days. It seems almost everything has been done. Every so often a Usual Suspects or Memento comes along that keeps audiences guessing and then shocks them at the end, but only rarely. 2017’s And Then There Was Eve accomplishes this feat. The film has just begun its festival run very recently and it’s quickly getting talked about. And Then There Was Eve is a thriller/love story with the twist ending that it hints at but you refuse to believe until slapped in the face with it. Savannah Bloch whose credits on the film include producer, co-writer, and director was filming at a blistering pace (nineteen days) and needed a DP quick on their toes, well thought out, and possessing a creative eye; that someone being Johanna Coelho. Discussing the DP, Bloch declares, “Johanna has a unique eye that I want around me on every project. From our very first collaboration, she brought endless ideas and visual inspiration to the project. She doesn’t just engage in the image to make it look ‘good’ but to understand the needs of the story and the emotions of the character using her craft so artfully that the visuals become a noninvasive extension of the psychology of the characters. She is articulate in her communication and an absolute professional in her ability to execute the vision, no matter what the budgetary restrictions may be. A gem on set, Johanna creates an atmosphere that allows actors and crew alike to do their best work. Without Johanna’s intuitive sensibilities, our film would not be the stunning moving picture that it has become.”
The beauty coupled with mystery (and sometimes fear) is the mood that is osmotic for this film. The subtlety of what is seen and heard in And Then There Was Eve is what pulls the viewer in, causing them to ponder rather than become beaten over the head with the events. The audience is enticed to discover more about Alyssa and Eve as the events unfold. In the story, Alyssa is a childrens’ photographer who lives in a loft in downtown San Diego. Upon waking one morning, the loft looks to be toppled upside down and ransacked. Alyssa notices that her husband has not been home the past evening and everything associated with him seems to be missing from the apartment: his instruments, Alyssa’s wedding ring, his clothes, pictures of him, etc. Unable to reach him and panicking about the situation, Alyssa calls the police for assistance. She also tries to reach his family and office. Everyone tells her they haven’t heard from him in a year. Alyssa finds music books in the apartment which her husband Kevin wrote, and they are all forwarded to the name of a woman named Eve. Suspicious of this woman being linked to Kevin’s disappearance, Alyssa reaches out to Eve and meets her to ask questions and ascertain if they are having an affair and her husband whereabouts. Eve tells Alyssa that Kevin and her were close but she hasn’t seen him in a year either…though she is willing to help Alyssa find him. Alyssa and Eve go on this strange journey, trying to find evidence of what might have happened to Kevin. All the people Kevin knew seem to act strangely when Alyssa asks about him. As the story progresses, Alyssa and Eve start getting close, discovering a deep connection between them. Alyssa gets confused about her feelings for Eve, as well as what actually happened between her and Kevin before he left…until she finally realizes that the inevitable truth is… (sorry, no spoilers here). Without revealing any more details of the plot, the story is a dizzying discovery of one’s self and the truth and deception of romantic relationships in a very modern sense. The unexpected events throughout the film and its climax at the conclusion meant that it was paramount to not reveal too much too soon with the images. Johanna states, “In pre-production, Savannah (the Director) and I spoke a lot about visual references. This story is so particular in many ways, that we really wanted to find the right manner to tell the story visually. For the first big part of the movie, we really see the world through Alyssa’s eyes. She has this panic and dementia to her that we really wanted the audience to feel, but in a subtle way. Our moodboard was made with pictures that ‘made us feel something’ that Alyssa would be feeling. It was not really created with colors or special looks; rather, it was about framing, angles, softness, etc… We decided to shoot on the Arri Alexa Mini, as we had a lot of handheld shots and tiny spaces. We decided to go for the mini Cooke S4’s lenses and use filtration in the camera (mostly diffusion Black Promist). The framing and the camera choices really helped us to place the audience in the same emotional state as Alyssa.” Coelho’s talent and creative approach were highly appreciated by the cast of the film. John Kassir, one of the stars of And Then There Was Eve, declares, “Working on this film required deep concentration and accessible emotion in a short amount of time for myself and the other actors. Johanna was an expert at not only capturing each spontaneous moment, but helping to set the tone of each scene with her lighting and atmosphere. I felt like she was another actor in the scene with the give and take she added to the process. She and her crew were never invasive and were always respectful of the actor’s preparation and very protective of our space. I have since gotten the chance to see footage from our film and am amazed at its quality and how the look supports the story. We were moving at such a quick pace but there was always time for the actors because of Johanna and her crew’s efficiency. It really comes thru in the quality of the look and performances of the film!
Some of the untold surprises of And Then There Was Eve are directly associated with a somewhat controversial subject matter in today’s society. This is reflected in both the story of the film and the cast who present it. As a resident and working professional in a number of places around the globe, Johanna is aware of the differences that are found in various locations. These relate to all manners of life, including the upward mobility in the film industry and the opportunities she has been given. She notes, “I think the US industry might be a little more open-minded than in my home country. I mean, there is still a long way to go regarding equality with gender and race in this business, but the opportunities I have been offered here would probably have never happened in my home country. In France, I think the mentality is a little different. They really expect you to have years of experience and climb the ladder progressively like everyone to have your shot at success. I totally understand it, but at the same time, if your passion is to be a DP, why would you be an assistant camera for years? What about if you really have a talent for it and you can assume the responsibilities of the job, why wouldn’t you be considered? Of course this is kind of a general statement, there still are many opportunities for young artists in France. The US is so supportive of art in general, it’s truly amazing. I really see myself pursuing my career in the US, but I would definitely love shooting some projects in Europe, and France in particular. I love European movies, and the locations are just amazing there. I truly hope that I can experience shooting there soon. But the US industry is really important to me as well and I want to grow here, mixing my European perspective with my US one. For me it’s the perfect combination.”
Go to a theater and see And Then There Was Eve. Prepare yourself for the surprises that abound (especially the ending) and prepare yourself for the astounding job that DP Johanna Coelho has done in keeping the truth hidden until that moment.