Fine Cut

The Absence

About the Film

Benjamin Moss (MATTHEW RAUCH), assistant manager in the Records Department of Black House Securities, is sent on a mission to a mysterious and barren rural landscape. There he crosses paths with eleven-year-old Jonathan Gardner (JAN UCZKOWSKI), a boy who is beginning to wake up to the dark forces devastating his town. Ben confronts the truth behind his company's work and must choose whether to continue to obey his messianic boss (LARRY SWANSEN).

Director's Statement

"The Absence" is a dark, supernatural noir about a man who works for a shadowy company whose intentions are not clear. When he is sent on a mission to a bleak and barren town, he is faced with the true nature of his company's work and must choose whether to continue to obey his superiors. The film explores themes such as moral accountability and the power of memory, and juxtaposes contemporary themes and images such as white collar corporate culture and the consequences of a surveillance society with more fantastical and religious references.

I drew on a large number of inspirations, including writers such as Ray Bradbury and Stephen King, and filmmakers such as Tarkovsky and Bertolucci. While writing the script I was reading "Eichmann in Jerusalem" by Hannah Arendt, about the trial of Adolf Eichmann, and that ended up having a big influence on the story and the themes I was exploring. She writes so eloquently and powerfully about the danger of abdicating moral choice to others, it definitely ended up affecting how I wrote and directed the arc of my protagonist.

I shot most of the film on the North Fork of Long Island. As a child I took many trips out there, and it held a very nostalgic place in my mind. The year before I shot the film I was out there with my family, and I was struck by how unique and beautiful the light is out there. The place just felt special and magical to me. It was important that I could film somewhere that felt a little otherworldly and out of time, and it just fit the project.

We had the misfortune of filming in what I was told was the coldest November in 30 years on Long Island, so that was hard on the crew, particularly because the vast majority of the film is set outdoors. About half the crew flew in from LA, and they were probably regretting that decision at some points. But the bitter weather added an additional bleakness and stark beauty to our surroundings, which served the film, and it also led the crew to band together through some tough conditions. There was great comraderie.

About the Filmmaker

Portrait of Alex DeMille.

Alex DeMille grew up on Long Island, New York and received a BA in History from Yale University. After graduation he moved to Manhattan, where he worked in post production. In 2005 he moved to Los Angeles to work towards an MFA in film directing at UCLA. At school, DeMille wrote and directed four short films that have screened at film festivals around the world. He currently works as a freelance editor and is developing his first feature.