ART DESIGNERS EDITORIALS FILM

INFERNO – an art film touching on the many dimensions between predestination, fire, and moral destruction


“I don’t believe in predestination, to be honest I don’t know what to believe. I believe that no one knows anything no matter what they say.”

Last year, we connected with Lewis Is Dead, a visual and acoustic designer hailing from New Jersey. During our conversation with him, he touched on many different topics; from his dark and abstract aesthetic to his (then, upcoming) first major film project, titled INFERNO.

A creative collaboration between director Youp Wehnes and Lewis himself, INFERNO was shot in Amsterdam and stars artist and model Anna Ustian, as well as her younger sister Emma playing the younger version of the pro/antagonist. The film serves the purpose of a thought provoking eye opener, and an overall dangerously beautiful experience. The highly symbolic and popping visuals are crafted like pure art, and when it comes down to it, that’s all this film truly is.

With a runtime of less than 8 minutes, INFERNO centers on a talented girl who draws a picture of a beautiful woman she saw burning alive in her dreams. When she becomes regretful of what she created, she burns the picture and sets in motion a ritualistic series of events that follow her for the rest of her life.

I had the pleasure of once again speaking with Lewis about the film, digging deeper into the concept and aesthetic of his latest art piece, INFERNO.

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Lewis Is Dead

I‘d love to know how this project came to be… it’s absolutely beautiful. What was the creative process like when you conceptualized the storyline?

I wanted to tell a story about a someone that was sexually aroused by fire originally. It was going to be quite graphic and strongly sexual before we actually got into writing the screenplay. It turned into us telling a story that brings up a question about whether we create our destinies or if they’re preset for us. And the burning played into that.

What do you believe? And the burning, what does that represent to you?

I don’t believe in predestination, to be honest I don’t know what to believe. I believe that no one knows anything no matter what they say. The burning to me represents freedom. The scene in which she is on the bed in lingerie and a ski mask shows her crossing over. She’s breaking free and celebrating her destruction. Her story ending in fire is the moment when she has finally grown to be the woman she always knew she would be, hence her drawing the picture of herself in the beginning.

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A screencap from INFERNO.

Elaborate on the symbolism used throughout the film.

It’s interesting how fire is symbolically related to uprising and rebirth yet for so many previous generations its synonymous relative was Hell. Although the focus in INFERNO is fire itself, it takes you on a journey through earth, wind, and fire. You can even say the enemy of fire, being water, was more dominant throughout.

The line “We may wash away our sins but shall never be rid of them” relates so closely to what I believe we all go through as a species. The questions the story also asks are “do we need to wash away our sins? Do they make us who we are? Are our darker desires the key to our full realization and ultimate growth?” There’s definitely dimensions to it.

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Anna Ustian in INFERNO.

“For months (Youp and I) went back and forth sending each other films, video clips, photographs, anything we thought was inspiring and important to the creative direction we wanted to go in.”

Tell me about how it was to work with Youp and his crew.. What was that experience like? Did you guys get along well creatively?

Youp and I connected through Instagram. I saw his first film Cowboy and loved the cinematography and the approach. I knew that working with him would be easy because he seemed to put things together the way I would. Our appreciation and understanding for each other’s work helped immensely in the overall execution of this project. 

Taste is huge when collaborating with anyone for me. For months we went back and forth sending each other films, video clips, photographs, anything we thought was inspiring and important to the creative direction we wanted to go in. In a sense we got to know each other better through art and content.

It was very easy working with him and relaying all of the information to the crew and Michel Blom as well, who also helped a lot in the planning stages and of course the shooting.

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Anna Ustian in INFERNO.

There were around 4 different edits of the film with the original being around 11 minutes. The music changed completely each time and Youp developed his editing skills over the time as well.

Even though I was in the US and he was in Amsterdam it felt as though we were growing throughout this process together.

What’s next for you when it comes to film?

This is the first of many. I’ve already done test shots for a film based off of Father Grey that I’ve been writing and Carmega and myself will be directing our own original project together, not to mention music videos and other visuals.


Follow Lewis Is Dead

Follow Youp Wehnes

Follow Anna Ustian

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