Dense: Toby Amies about ‘The Man Whose Mind Exploded’

By Jo Phillips

The Man Whose Mind Exploded (a documentary film by Toby Amies about mental illnes, love , faith and art) transforms from biopic into love story when Toby Amies goes from film maker to carer as he tries to document and then cope with, the bizarre way of life of the eccentric amnesiac Drako Zraharzar. Their relationship is by turns poignant, frustrating, hilarious and ultimately, inspirational. Like a cross between The Odd Couple and Grey Gardens, the film also contains nipple tugging and rude art.


Toby: “A friend of mine David Bramwell had some funding to make a short silent film that his band Oddfellows Casino would provide the live soundtrack for, and he said “we have to use Drako!” Drako was something of a legend in Brighton by that stage anyway. So we went to pick Drako up from his flat and when I saw inside it I recognised that he was living in an artwork. Drako had trained in interiors in Geneva, and it was like he’d made his flat into a piece of outsider interior design! He also had the most wonderful charisma and the way he “lived completely in the now” made him an exciting person to be around. I was fascinated by him. I like to expose myself to extreme and unusual points of view, I don’t necessarily adopt them but I learn a lot about humanity by trying to understand them from the inside out. Drako was ideal and also very much enjoyed the presence of the camera, and possibly the company.

Drako’s home was unique and extraordinary. One of those spaces where the lines between the physical and the imagined are crossed and distorted, and that’s how he liked and lived in it. Above all it was an OVERWHELMING space. Though so full of words, pictures, and powerful smells it would be inappropriate to refer it as space, more the opposite. Le Corbusier described the house as a machine for living, Drak’s space was designed to help in his thinking. Complicated, damaged, and visionary thinking.

Drako Zarharzar at home

As a result of brain damage following a traffic accident, Drako’s ability to record new memories was severely impaired. This made it hard to maintain an identity in the way that the rest of us take for granted. But using his considerable creative talent Drako “exploded” his mind into his living space. The idea of writing a note to remind yourself to do something was it extended into creating a three-dimensional version of memory in order that Drako could remind himself and others of who he was.

Many faces of Drako

One of the taglines we use for the film is “an invitation into his home is an invitation into his mind”. Drako had a fantastic, unusual and above all, free, mind, even before the brain damage. By the time I met him he had lived a life full of arts, drug, body modification, crime, movie stars and… sex! All of this was on display in his home. When you walked into the flat you walked into a very full and vivid three-dimensional autobiography. Drako had also worked as a dancer at the Folies Bergere and the London palladium and it was appropriate that the safest way to make it through his living area was by performing a careful snakelike dance to make your way through the hanging notes and pictures. They created something between a collage and a mobile and as the film details, a health hazard! I wanted to film it in 3d but even then could not have done it justice. Everywhere you looked your eyes would be full of postcards, images of Drako from his modelling work, priapic montages and illuminated notes describing his philosophies and passions. There was a combination of the sacred and the obscene in Drak’s flat that was both initially shocking, but also innocent. There was nothing dirty, or perverse about his sexuality to me, even though his descriptions of it were very detailed. VERY detailed.

Drako's flat. Posters.
Drako’s flat. Posters.

Of course everyone’s home is a reflection of themselves, but this is usually mediated by our interaction with other people, Drako’s place was designed for and by him, without any intent to impress or serve anyone else. It is a paper forest, inhabited by his soul. I hope when people see the film they get some sense how hard it was to be in it and more importantly what a privilege it was to spend time in it.

Tout Love hands tattoo

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All images used by permission.

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