Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Interview with “Dark Touch” Writer/Director Marina de Van

MarinadeVaninSitcomThe day after her film Dark Touch premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, I got the chance to sit down with the film's writer and director Marina de Van and ask her a few questions about the film and her philosophy toward filmmaking. Why does she tackle such dark subject matter? What was her favorite scene to film, and which one was just painful? Why does pop culture love telekinetic girls like Carrie, Matilda, and Neve? All these questions answered and more.

First off, I want to let you know that I really enjoyed your film.

Thank you.

I didn't read your director's notes until after I wrote my review, and I was surprised at how many things that you mentioned about influences from Carrie and Poltergeist that I immediately noticed without needing that guidance. I'd like to start out with some questions about you in general as a director and then we can move onto the film. Growing up, what filmmakers or storytellers influenced you, maybe pushed you towards filmmaking?

Well, I don't know. I didn't want to be a filmmaker when I was young, so I had no big particular influence. I have very classical tastes. I love Kubrick.

I thought it was interesting watching your film very shortly after watching the documentary Michael H – Profession: Director which is also in the festival. He spoke about the notion of exploring dark themes in the safe environment of a movie.

[Because it's a movie] we can do it, yes.

I thought that was an interesting philosophy. What would you say is your philosophy or approach to filmmaking?

Oh, it is very much the same.

With Dark Touch, what were your goals going into this film?

I wanted to show how child abuse prevents the kids to ever feel comfortable with contact and love after the trauma. So that, in the movie they renounce true contact and commit suicide, but I would show how difficult it is after a sexual abuse to be touched and to be loved, that love is not enough because they don't have any more understanding of what a simple love and a simple physical touch can be.

Yeah, that definitely comes through in her interactions with the family that has taken her in. They don't think that she will interpret a touch or a phrase differently.

Yes, yes, exactly.

When you started making Dark Touch, which came first for you, the idea of doing a film about child abuse or a film about a child with telekinetic powers?

It was the desire to make a film about child abuse.

And coincidentally, Matilda: The Musical is also opening on Broadway, another story of a telekinetic child with abusive parents, the same week your film is premiering at Tribeca. You mentioned Carrie as an influence for this film. What is it about children with telekinetic powers that you think fascinates audience?

Because it is magic, and it can show feelings of someone who doesn't really know what he feels, but his power knows what he feels, so his power express anger and resentment and all those things he is not able to express. So telekinesis, it is very expressive in terms of feelings.

And Neve doesn't know initially that these powers are coming from her. She thinks it is the house that is haunted, but it is really coming from her. Something else I noticed in your director's notes, you mentioned the satisfaction and fun in the horror genre of seeing bad people get what's coming to them. For you, what was the most satisfying scene for you?

That I enjoyed shooting? Maybe the doll's party. It was very fun, with the fire and all these kids playing with the dolls. Yeah, maybe that one.

As soon as they mentioned the birthday party, there was laughter in our audience. “Yeah, this isn't going to end well.” By far, the scene that stuck with me the most, though, was the ending scene with the bathtub and the family dinner.

Oh, yes.

How did you feel while filming this scene? What was the mood on set?

Oh, it was painful, seeing the actors pretending they were suffering, yelling, crying. It was tough. It was unpleasant. I felt like I was sadistic.

That's such a running theme throughout the film, objects and routines, a school house, a family dinner and subverting it. Something else I wanted to ask you in all this, violence against children is very taboo in cinema regardless of context, at least in the U.S. Why do you think theatergoers are specifically uncomfortable with violence involving children?

Well, it's more because the industry is afraid that children actors might be traumatized by the shooting of the violent scenes. I think that's the reason.

So you don't think it's so much that audiences would have a hard time with that?

Well, also that, yes.

Do you think that any subject like child violence should ever be off-limits for filmmakers?

No, no. No.


Dark Touch is playing at the Tribeca Film Festival April 23 at 9:45 PM at the Clearview Cinemas Chelsea. Tickets can be purchased online at

Rachel Kolb • Staff Writer

I love movies, writing, and breaking into song in public. You can follow me on Twitter @rachelekolb or check out more of my work at


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