• Michele Lammas

Flutter: Themes and Inspirations – Edward Lee

Part of Moosecat Creative’s Broken People series of short films, Flutter presents a brief glimpse into the psychosexual corruption of a young taxidermist. An expert in the taxidermy of butterflies, he was trained in the craft by his late grandfather and raised under the thrall of his stories; exotic, titillating tales set amidst a dark time of British colonialism. Stories which, as we learn, have left a lasting effect on this young man…

Edward Lee, writer and actor of Flutter, breaks down some of his inspirations behind the piece.

Poster for FLUTTER short film

One blistering summer a few years back, I decided to make the most of the sunshine by locking myself in a dark room and watching British films from the 1960s.

During my self-imposed exile, I devoured a large amount of globetrotting adventure and thriller pieces produced by Hammer Films, a company whose oeuvre at the time was best associated with rural-set gothic horror. Among these more global pieces featured a story of tyrannical Afghan rebels in The Brigand of Kandahar (1965), a death worshipping Thugee Cult in The Stranglers of Bombay (1959), and the Honk Kong-set, Fu Manchu-inspired The Terror of the Tongs (1961).

The films, employing an exoticized lens in depicting their tales of other lands, cultures, times and people, were full of the hallmarks typically associated with such films from the period; racial stereotypes, objectified women, the fetishization of the ‘other’, the list goes on. While rightly viewed as problematic and distasteful today, the attitudes of the films didn’t stand out to me, with these ideals, unfortunately, being par for the course for much British-produced, American-distributed genre fare from this time. Where they eventually proved to be morbidly fascinating, and where they revealed an even more ugly and insidious side, was through one key component; setting and presenting these pulp fiction storylines against the real-world history and backdrop of British colonialism.

"The combination of these aspects got me thinking about how the complexities of history can be trivialised in popular culture and, if not entirely whitewashed, certainly watered down in the popular consciousness."

In depicting these times during Britain’s empire, the eroticised nature of the iconography in these films proved additionally interesting. The films share much of their DNA with other pieces of genre culture from the time such as boys’ magazines and cheap pulp adventure fiction. So too did the depiction of women in these films owe itself to the ‘cheesecake’ style of the ‘Good Girl’ comic book art boom of the 40s and 50s, which in turn linked much of its own imagery back to the early 20th-century pulp novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

It is from this harmful coalescence of colonial history with adolescent pulp fiction where the inspiration for Flutter began. The combination of these aspects got me thinking about how the complexities of history can be trivialised in popular culture and, if not entirely whitewashed, certainly watered down in the popular consciousness. We live in a moment now in Britain where many seem to fetishize the country’s past, and obsess over the current image of the country on the world stage. Where the perceptions and associations of the Union Jack seem to constantly shift. Where I recently attended a museum featuring a child-size costume of a British uniform from the Anglo-Zulu war, able to be worn for fun and photographs while divorced from much of its historical context. Amidst this environment, my exploration of these cracked mirror depictions of Britain’s past proved thought-provoking to me.

In seeking to develop a story from these ideas, I decided to boil down the large-scale nature of these societal and historical problems into a more intimate, physical, small-scale plane. In presenting a character embroiled in these harmful concepts, I sought to create a piece which confronts people with the uncomfortable language and imagery often linked to such history and media. Ultimately, Flutter explores how these elements can create a skewed worldview beyond that of race and nation, and into how it can morph someone’s sexuality. The details and secrets of that, however, await you in the film itself…

Actor and writer Edward Lee takes a break from filming on the set of FLUTTER at Greyfriars National Trust property in Worcester, UK


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