A few years ago, New York psychologist Niloo Dardashti began to observe a growing trend among her female patients: Many were intensely captivated by the Twilight books and films After noticing, too, that her friends couldn't stop talking about the popular series, she decided it was worth an investigation. Into the Twilight Haze is an intriguing documentary that examines how Stephanie Meyer's Twilight books and subsequent film adaptations -- which are ostensibly geared to teens and tweens -- sinks its teeth into adult women, from nearly every walk of life.
Fascinating and sometimes heartbreaking (one subject contemplates leaving her husband after reading the books) the film is groundbreaking foray into the female psyche.
The International Business Times had the chance to talk with Dardashti about the film, which can be purchased here for online streaming.
When you decided to make this documentary, you were a psychologist without any prior experience in film production. What led you to develop Into the Twilight Haze?
I remember I was sitting in a restaurant a year and a half ago talking to a friend over lunch about Twilight. As we were discussing, another friend called me and said that she had a friend who was having some serious marital issues and reading Twilight was bringing up a lot of emotions for her. Right then I thought, this is incredible. This must be the fifth time I've heard this in three months. I had a flash about how interesting it would be to do some sort of investigation or study and then I thought: Documentary.
I thought it was too important a topic to not do anything about it. It was clear to me that for many women, Twilight was a vehicle, if you will, for exploring some of their own longings and questions about relationships in general. It would be too simple to say what some critics say about Twilight depicting some sort of societally driven desire in women for a man to be their 'everything.' There has to be balance for most things in life and the balance of feeling whole within one's self and feeling satisfied in a relationship is certainly a big one.
Many women in long term relationships feel that Twilight triggers a longing for the first stages of their relationship.
How did people react when you told them you were making a film about Twilight and its effect on women?
People were exited. Women were thrilled because most of them had something to say about it or some way to relate. Men were eager to see why their girlfriends and wives were so into it, and people who were just not into it were still interested in learning about the psychological underpinnings of the mass appeal to it. I think whenever there is such a widespread interest in something within pop culture, (in this case what we refer to as the Twilight Phenomenon), it is easy to just look at it as some surface explanation (i.e. Edward is so hot or Jacob's abs are amazing), but it's much more interesting to go beneath the surface and really try to grasp some of the underlying pull in the societal collective unconscious.
You talked to several different women for the documentary. They all had some startling reactions to the books/films. Over the course of filming, what surprised you the most about your interview subjects?
It was surprisingly hard to get women to talk about their emotions and deeper feelings that were triggered by the books and movies. Off camera, everywhere I went and everyone I spoke to seemed to be so naturally able to go there. Of course on camera it is always harder to be as open and vulnerable, but it was interesting how across generations, women were open about different aspects of the film than others were.
Describe the process of selecting women to appear in the film? Did you find that many of them had reservations about sharing such personal stories?
The process of selecting women was challenging. I wanted to interview women of all ages and ethnicities, but I also wanted them to be somewhat insightful about why love Twilight - I would ask them: Most of the time, they would say I love 'Twilight' so much. I could not stop reading it when I started. And I'd say Wow...so what do you think it is about 'Twilight' that affected you so intensely? What did it bring up for you? Once we would get to those kinds of questions it was pretty clear whether it would be an interesting enough interview! Many of them said they actually never thought about it before and even when prompted, had difficulty tapping into it. So that's pretty much how we screened women. I didn't want it to become a situation where I was pulling teeth in the interview, so I tried to select women who had some initial insight into their love of Twilight.
It was clear that some of the women had reservations about getting into certain issues and I respected that. But for the most part they were all pretty open about their thoughts and feelings. As you can imagine, some were more comfortable talking about deeper feelings than others, which was fine. I have tremendous respect for the women who let us interview them and talked so openly about their personal lives.
Many of the women interviewed express a desire for something more in their lives. Most have found that after reading/watching Twilight they wanted more passion and or love in their lives. Do you think that their personal realization is a positive thing or are they longing for something that is impossible to obtain?
I think on all accounts it is a positive thing; however one of the issues that the film explores is what this desire for something more really entails. Sometimes it is simply a desire for more connection, excitement, and/or more intimacy in a relationship, and sometimes it can be more symbolic of an underlying need for something to be fulfilled within oneself. This is something that comes up for most people at various different points in their lives (a need/seeking for more) and often it is tricky to decipher between whether that need can be met by someone else, within one's own self, or both. Again, we explore this balance in a fresh and interesting way that most people can relate to on some level - whether they are Twilight fans or not!
You're now in the early stages of a Fifty Shades of Grey documentary. How do you plan to develop the project?
I am just working on putting together my vision for it now, but it is going to be quite different than the one I just did...I'm very excited and don't want to say more about it just yet!
For more on Into the Twilight Haze, visit www.twilightdocumentary.com.