Cleft Lip Director’s Statement

Erik Knudsen Portrait
Writer and Director Erik Knudsen

With Cleft Lip, I wanted to bring the archetypal themes of a classic story to life in the contemporary everyday.

Classically epic and archetypal themes often tend to be adapted into narrative film as either relatively faithful historical adaptations which mimic the epic nature of their originals, or as contemporary or futuristic adaptations recreating an equivalent epic spectacle. They can therefore feel mythical and remote. 

In poetry and literature, the epic may be as a consequence of a metaphoric turn of phrase, while the literal adaptation or translation of this often results in audiovisual bonanza of spectacle. 

Few have done in cinema what James Joyce did with The Odyssey’s leading character, Ulysses, in literature; translating the essence of an archetypal classic story into a context that reflects the immediate and intimate everyday circumstances of the author and his audience. 

In bringing a poverty that imbeds epic themes into the small scale intimacy of everyday contemporary life, Joyce used heritage and history to advance the narrative language of the literary novel. 

Back to the future, so to speak. 

With Cleft Lip I aspired to achieve similar relevance through the creation of an innovative contemporary adaptation of one of the classic stories of European civilization. 

Identity is a crucial element of how we create meaning, purpose and responsibility in our lives and nowhere is this more important than in having a sense of our personal history and lineage. 

Fertility and the social context we have created around it has changed greatly in the past decades, creating serious challenges for a growing number of people who are uncertain of their true heritage. 

In some European countries, it is increasingly possible that both egg and sperm donations may be anonymously supplied to those seeking to have children and as fertility becomes commodified there are growing numbers of people who may be mingling with siblings, for example, that they do not know are their siblings. 

The discovery of the link between the themes of a 2,350 year old play and this was a Eureka moment for me: I found the story of Oedipus could merge with these themes and challenges in contemporary life, whilst still reflecting on the unchanging and powerful relationship between a child and their parents.