Nathan is fifteen years old and deaf. Haunted by the recent drowning of his older sister and unable to express his own emotions, he feels isolated and alone in the rural town where he lives. So much hidden, his father continues to conceal his grief from both himself and others. Desperate to feel the sense of connection that he once felt with his sister, Nathan is drawn to seventeen year old Liz. Liz seems to offer an escape from his loneliness. However, as Nathan grapples to fit in, his unspoken emotions begin tosurface.
DIRECTOR’S NOTES - David Rittey
“The inspiration for Closer grew from my own experiences while working as a disability support worker after finishing film school . During this time I worked with people who had a wide range of "disabilities" – including Deafness - and gained insight into the various ways these people communicate and negotiate their everyday lives.
As with other "disabilities" the history of Deaf people is one of stigma and marginalisation due to the lack of understanding of the hearing population. In my opinion, Deafness is not a disability but rather a different way of experiencing the world. It is only referred to as such because the Deaf experience differs to that of the main stream. Therefore, my aim was to open a doorway and capture the sensory experience of a person (Nathan) living with Deafness and to offer the viewer an emotional insight into his experience of the world.
Due to this, I was keen to create a feeling of authenticity and believability for the role of Nathan, so decided that it was most important to cast a Deaf person for this role. After a long search and with the help of the New Zealand Deaf community we eventually found Toby Agnew. The world of Deafness provides a shifted tone and perspective and a primarily visual way of experiencing the world. This perspective is very subjective, personal and sensory. To reflect these elements, special attention was given to the sound design to enable the audience to become submerged in the Deaf experience in selected moments during the film .
Closer was written to relate directly to both Deaf and hearing audiences. I believe the Deaf realm can also be viewed as extension of the larger human experience - a metaphor for growing up, alienation and loneliness as well as the deep need we all have to feel connected to other people and to touch, feel and be loved. The silent world and its inherent communication difficulties is also an extension of the inability we can all have at times to truly listen, speak and communicate with each other.”