Director and screenwriter Ari Aster: “My films are exorcisms”

6:18 p.m., June 28, 2022

With Heredity (2018) and Midsommar (2019), 35-year-old Ari Aster has made a name for himself and a reputation in the global horror film industry. The American director and screenwriter is in Paris as part of the Champs-Elysées Film Festival, which pays him a deserved tribute. “I am happy and flattered, even if I find this honor amazing because I am only at the very beginning of my career”, he admits with humility. Meeting with an author as discreet as his work leaves an indelible imprint in the memories.

When did you fall in love with cinema?
Very difficult to determine, there were no notable catalyzing events. It’s something that has always mattered to me. During childhood, with each ordeal that I had to overcome, my mother used the metaphor of cinema to teach me the values ​​of life. An artist herself, she constantly referred to the films, which seemed twisted to me at the time and embarrassed me greatly. Nevertheless, she transmitted her passion to me. I feel silly and sentimental recalling this memory. I’ve always wanted to do this job, I’m lucky to be able to fulfill my dream that I thought was unattainable. I was simply destined to write stories. Then I realized that I couldn’t imagine anyone else to direct them. It would be too depressing to lose control and leave them to a stranger.

Read also – Heredity » : Prepare for shock!

Why did you choose horror to express yourself?
The most honest answer is that I tried to set up two projects that never came to fruition because they were too ambitious. I then complied with the rules of the current cinema world governed by cynicism: a horror film script would cost less. I got the financing quickly. Then it got more personal. I have a dark sensibility and I write quite gloomy stories, which turns out to be a virtue in the genre. Whereas in general it would rather be a flaw. Afterwards, I have always been a fan of this cinema. In all my scripts (I have a fourth and a fifth under my belt), even if they are not blatant contributions to horror, there are still some elements. Things always go wrong, it’s a constant with me. I feed as much on David Cronenberg as on David Lynch and Roman Polanski, on Ken Russell, who delights like me in the extreme, as well as Japanese masters, Kaneto Shindo and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, or Italian giallo, Dario Argento and Mario Drool.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
In my own life. You could say that my films are exorcisms, that they come under therapy. I summon those of others, but much more painters and writers. I try to avoid falling into the trap of conventions, clichés and stereotypes as much as possible, even if I sometimes enjoy twisting them. I am looking for strangeness, originality, radicality. To propose intrigues which require the active participation of the public, invited to solicit his brain. I like to provoke him, stimulate him, manhandle him, make him feel uncomfortable and sometimes on the ground! I show him what he is not expecting. The comfort is unacceptable. Tired of Hollywood blockbusters, of a stupidity that inspires deep boredom in me. I sound arrogant and snobbish when I throw this out, but I mean it so much. I ask too many questions! Recurring themes for me are death, family and rebirth. I feel like I’m repeating myself because they keep coming back. I am torn by my daily fears, for which there is no cure. I fear terribly the consequences of my actions. To utter things that I regret afterwards. Like during this interview!

I like to provoke the public, to stimulate it, to manhandle it, to make it feel uncomfortable and sometimes on the ground.

You are part of a new generation of filmmakers who dare everything…
I admire Ruben Ostlünd, who has just won the Palme d’Or for Triangle of Sadness. And I’m friends with Robert Eggers, who impressed me recently with The Northman. I respect them, they both have their own signature. I don’t know if I own one. Heredity took place behind closed doors in a house bathed in darkness while Midsommar orchestrated a tragedy in the sun and in the open air. There is a symmetry, the two films dialogue with each other. There was no strategy, I assure you. The third will be even more intimate.

Why don’t you want to talk about Disappointment Blvd. ?
Because it is not finished! I am a perfectionist, I take the entire manufacturing process very seriously. Despite time and money restrictions. It is also good to preserve the mystery. In reality, post-production isn’t finished, I don’t even have the final edit. I still have work to do on sound and visual effects. I doubt I’m done for the September festivals. But I can tell you that collaborating with Joaquin Phoenix is ​​one of the best experiences of my life. I am very proud of his performance and I love him with all my heart.

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Director and screenwriter Ari Aster: “My films are exorcisms”