steve hawley


artists’ film and video

Love Under Mercury 2000 (16mm film) 33 min

Feel like you’re walking on air? Lost your appetite. Like you’re in a film. Hear music when there’s no-one there. You’re not in love, you’re just suffering from mercury poisoning.

Love Under Mercury, Steve Hawley’s first film made for the cinema, is about science, transformation, and tragedy. Louis Daguerre invented the Daguerrotype when some drops of mercury, accidentally spilled from a broken thermometer in a cupboard, developed his iodised photographic plates, and thus revolutionised photography. But some years later the early Daguerrotypists developed symptoms of mercury poisoning - irritability, insomnia, and “childish over-emotionalism”. Just the very symptoms of love melancholy. Like Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter they had been poisoned by the mercury vapour.

Thus science, like film (and like love) can bring about magical transformations, but they all bring with them the potential for tragedy. In the film the two lovers, the unseen protagonists, comment on and interpret a stream of images; chemistry laboratories, waterfalls, transformed objects, and a malevolent ventriloquist’s dummy, but above all on mercury, the alchemists’ metallic essence, the liquid mirror, the solvent of gold and silver, and ultimately the poison which is a medical and environmental disaster.

Actors Claire Marshall and  Richard Lowdon

Sound Design  Joakim Sundström

Pictures, words and music Steve Hawley

Funded by the Arts Council of England

Experimental narrative about science, transformation , and tragedy. Lux Cinema London July 2000. Rotterdam Film Festival Feb 2001 Ann Arbor Film Festival 2001 (award- highly commended). 13th Onion City Film and Video Festival Chicago 2001. Transmediale Berlin 2002

Love Under Mercury 2000