The Old Man Next Door

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15MIN

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(26 Oct - 1 Nov UK only) UK DIGITAL PREMIERE — Matiu, a war veteran who struggles with PTSD and agoraphobia, is unable to leave the safety of his home since his wife’s passing. Shy student Yvonne from next door, his only visitor in self-imposed isolation, struggles with her own mental health. Distraught when her boyfriend leaves her, she stops taking her medication and soon spirals out of control. Matiu is the only witness to her descent into madness, which poses a threat to her life. He must find the strength within to cross the threshold and save her, or remain a prisoner of his fear...and his conscience.

Director Bio

Aidan Dickens is a Wellington-based film director of Maori and pakeha descent. He has numerous short films and music videos to his credit which have featured in film festivals both locally and internationally. He completed an MA in Screen Production at Auckland University in 2017 and works as a film tutor at Yoobee Colleges. His script ‘The Old Man Next Door’ was a finalist in the 2018 Fresh Shorts funding round through the New Zealand Film Commission.


Director Statement

The idea for this film came to me a few months after my wife was discharged from Te Whare Ahuru, the psychiatric unit at Hutt Hospital, and we were both picking up the pieces of our life together. Among other things, the stress of preparing to move from Auckland to Wellington, and my absence, had led to her experiencing a severe depressive episode which included catatonia and psychosis. It was her second such hospitalization and both episodes had left her severely anxious and agoraphobic on returning home (once the sedating effects of the benzodiazepines, administered only in hospital, wore off). Even the most limited of outings - literally down the road -for her meant overcoming a daily internal “battle” in those first weeks and months.

Drawing on my own struggles in the role of support person during this time - often experiencing disempowerment, frustration and sadness - I felt compelled to tell a story which allowed me to explore my thoughts and feelings about mental health in a way that I was familiar and most comfortable with. ‘The Old Man Next Door’ is a compelling, character-driven drama set in Wellington, New Zealand. Matiu, an elderly Māori war veteran and widower suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and agoraphobia, unable to leave the safety of his home. When he witnesses the downward spiral of his neighbour Yvonne, however, he finds the strength within to “do battle” with the internal forces that have imprisoned him, in order to save her from herself.

My vision of the journey of Matiu, from broken war veteran to hero who saves the life of the girl next door, is reflected in the cinematography and art direction. In particular, an emphasis on closeups and tight shots evokes a feeling of claustrophobia. Most of the film is shot in small, enclosed spaces, and much of it is shot at night, which really helped to give the feeling of being trapped. Matiu’s house looks worn and devoid of any warmth, more like a cave than a home; used to his dark prison, he avoids sunlight like a nocturnal creature.

The actors’ performances were key to capturing the emotional depth of the characters, and I worked extensively with them to this end. The editing really pulled everything together, capturing those moments of tension and drama between the characters. In terms of music and sound, I sought to let the drama speak for itself, employing a minimalist soundtrack. Silences were particularly important to build tension.

Through the filming process I have seen my initial vision come to life in a very organic way. I was fortunate to work with a richly talented and experienced cast and crew, without whom the success of this project would not have been possible. 

Aidan Otene Dickens

Credits

Directed by Aidan Otene Dickens

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