I Will Hurt You Before You Hurt Me

19:30, 2013, HD video


How Do You Become a Victim?



Five years ago in a women's literature seminar, a student depressed by reading The Awakening, The House of Mirth and The Bell Jar, complained: Isn't there anything a woman can do but kill herself? To lighten the mood I quipped: She can always kill somebody else. And I realized in that instant that it was true.
                        From the book Women Who Kill (2009), by Ann Jones, feminist writer


I Will Hurt You Before You Hurt Me (2013) is a short film based on real interviews with women who have killed. The recordings were made through an improvisational process involving several actresses. The work approaches the implications of violence and explores how a person turns from being the victim into being an aggressor. Through my investigation I’ve learned that violent behavior is usually rooted in past traumas such as abuse and bullying. There is however more to the human mind than a simple cause and effect relation. How one reacts to certain traumas depends on one’s personality, upbringing and environment, but it is mostly certain that these traumas will have a negative effect whatever is in the form of depression, illness, anti-social disorder or violent conduct.

Even though the film has a documentary style and is based on real stories, it is openly a fiction film. The fictionalization of these stories is connected to a method that I’ve been using in recent work in which I collect true stories and then deconstruct them, re-assembling the fragments in different ways and therby creating new plots. The structure of this film originated in my previous short film: Every Story Is Imperfect (2012). This work was an experiment in which I collected unrelated stories from news-reports, and edited this sound and footage together with staged material. The fragments of real news-reports about disappearance and violence connected to images of muted characters walking through urban spaces. In a way this work relates to how the media relentlessly feeds us with news every day, which can result in a certain numbness and detachment.

During the research I did for Every Story Is Imperfect I found a great number of stories about women who have killed. Many of these stories were typically self-defense cases, but others were gruesome actions unimaginable for most people. Violent crimes are usually perpetrated by men far more often than by women (the statistics confirm it), and therefore these stories intrigued me. This material was not used in this film, but I decided to proceed with a search for similar material to use in a new project. The stories presented in I Will Hurt You Before You Hurt Me were selected from the wide range of samples that I collected. This material was taken from news-reports, books and the Internet. This collection contained stories which were far more violent than the ones presented in the film. It was an experiment of trial-and-error to select the ones to be used in the film.

In I Will Hurt You Before You Hurt Me, the characters show, through the way they express themselves about their crimes, a lack of empathy for the Other. This lack of empathy can also be translated as some sort of insanity, not necessarily in medical terms, but a kind of insanity which reflects an incapacity to reflect upon one’s own actions. During my research I discovered one thing in common in the many stories: the possible reason for that these perpetrators don’t understand the error of their actions is connected to their own feeling of powerlessness. A sense of loss of control is likely to grow in a victimized person. In many cases, and with varied degrees, that person can change position from victim to perpetrator in order to regain that lost control. This change of position is not completely conscious, it happens almost by itself and it is something which the aggressor can’t, in most cases, control. Something deep inside has been broken which causes a disorder.

As an art film, I Will Hurt You Before You Hurt Me gives only a glimpse of a much larger topic.
There is more darkness to the human mind than one can understand.

Emilija Skarnulyte and Tanya Busse                                                                                                                                                                                  Truls Lie