Elias Sommer combined both his own childhood memories of his great uncle using his dentures as a ‘puppet’ and his irrational fear of losing a tooth when making his comedy film, Dentures of Death.
The film is about a boy who loses his first tooth and then, naturally, concludes he is dying. Elias spent months planning this project as his Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) graduation film, weeks of which was solely dedicated to building the tartan-draped set of the elderly uncle’s home. The result was a cleverly written, Ash vs The Evil Dead-esque humour-filled 14 minutes that stays with you long after the film has ended.
Elias was delighted to have his hard work presented to an Edinburgh audience at the 2017 Short Film Festival.
Can you tell us about the process of creating Dentures of Death?
There were several rewrites, but most of our time was spent planning, crewing, casting, set building and trying to scrape money together. During the process, problems occurred which we couldn't have dreamt of in the planning stages.
For example, our six-year-old actor started losing his baby teeth the week before filming. This was a nightmare, as the story relies on him having a full set of teeth at the beginning of the film. In the end, we had to get prosthetic teeth custom made to fill the gaps. The week of filming was easier in comparison.
What influenced the concept of Dentures of Death?
Once I decided to build the story around tooth loss, endless doors opened to all kinds of research.
Every culture has its own myths about baby teeth, be it our Tooth Fairy or Pérez the mouse, who comes for the teeth of Hispanic children. I spoke to people of different ages about their memories of pulling out their first tooth. Most people remember it vividly; not merely how it happened, but the way it felt to twist and pull the wobbly thing. It is a universal experience.
In what ways does the film express your style of film making/directing?
I wanted to make a bold and imaginative comedy film which children and adults could both enjoy, and from which they could take different things. I did not want to make a safe and forgettable kid's flick that underestimates young audiences and fails to spark their curiosity.It's a dream of mine to create the kind of film that slightly scares you as a child, but that you strangely like and remember as an adult.
The film tells the story through Tommy's eyes rather than from a neutral perspective. This was our aim, at least.
How did you feel about your time spent at ECA?
ECA was a brilliant place to experiment, fail and learn. Meeting so many great people and collaborators at college was invaluable. Tutors and staff were enthusiastic about our projects and excellent at asking the difficult questions that make you re-examine your script, and sometimes do the necessary thing of ditching it and rewriting it.