Armoury Director Rollo Hollins Blurs the Lines of Storytelling for Powerful Film on Loss

Rollo Hollins’s work as a director straddles fiction and non-fiction. He applies stylised, almost documentary-like snippets of light, colour, sound – and silences. Silence is the real protagonist in his latest work with Armoury, Silence 1b, a gorgeously conceived piece of visual brutality.

Rollo explains how he got obsessed with the idea of coping with loss over something we haven’t known long enough to feel any ownership over. This is an early relationship, unpronounced or published; it is hidden when the movie starts and will remain hidden after its violent conclusion.

“A very early-stage relationship embodied that well,” says Rollo, “something that can feel incredibly important personally, but if no-one knew about it, if you hadn’t even had a chance to put a name to it and it ended abruptly, how ‘real’ was it and how would you work with that?”

The movie strives to blur the divide between fiction and non-fiction; it uses a ploy based on something Rollo observed while researching special effects for another movie. “I started noticing these incredibly emotive, yet emotionally distant titles that SFX (special effects) use – ‘Respirator, noisy’ – and wondered if Film as a medium could represent that safe space and distance to help think about loss,“ he says.

The result is mesmerising. The movie sets out to offer an anti-narrative that distances itself from emotional gestures, and it avoids fully exposing the two young women involved in this tragically short, doomed relationship. The sound, the evocative music (beautifully scored by Adem Ilhan), and the fierce editing make it clear that one of the two women is mourning the loss of the other while trying to deal with the fact that their relationship ended so devastatingly soon.

Rollo is adamant that he offers an experience instead of a narrative. “I wanted it to be loose enough that the viewer can place themselves in the film and be taken on an emotional journey they weren’t expecting.” He is not sure the movie has any answers, “but I hope it’s a surprising space that lets the viewer dwell on those thoughts and emotions for a little while,” he says.

Rollo has been trained under maverick director & cinematographer Chris Herd before spending eight years doing his own work as a director of photography and garnering awards for his work in the UK and the US. About Silence 1b he says that the movie is different from his commercial work. “It’s definitely not commercial, it’s not even narrative and I definitely wanted to get away from the more structured writing I’ve been doing on long-form projects.”

“I think there is a common theme in using film to transport the viewer to an emotionally open, reflective space,” he says. “I think that’s the thing film does best when done right. I would rather people be feeling than thinking.”

Check out the full film here.