Summer Academy

An interview with Ben Wheatley

Ben Wheatley
Ben Wheatley

Your films have been chosen for a small retrospective at the Histoire(s) du Cinema section at this years Festival....
Yes, I feel very very flattered. I was very surprised to be invited and I love the that people are given the opportunity to look at the three films in a row. I mean, I have made these films  in a very short amount of time and some are still playing at festivals but they are scattered and now at Locarno people can see all of them. In the UK, filmmakers talk a lot about the Locarno Film Festival and that being taken on by them will help your film a lot. So, I have been to Cannes and now Locarno, I couldn’t be happier. I had never managed to come to Locarno as it also very much depends on when you are finished with a film and my other two films were too worn out already by the time Locarno came around. So with Sightseers we finally managed to be at the right place at the right time.

Also, it does not happen too often that genre films get to come to big A festivals like Locarno....
Oh yes, that is true. My films are genre films but I have always loved that corssover of genre filmmaking and arthouse. I mean look at Jean-Luc Godard, his stuff is like that too, Breathless is story about a murderer hiding out. From the 70s and 80s, look at the works of Scorsese – there are all sorts of cross-overs: genres, melodramas, arthouse all mixed together. So films like mine are definitely not unprecedented, it just hasn’t been done that much recently. It is actually not a conscious choice, it is just the way I make films, I really don’t have much of a choice.

Although your films are very eclectic genre mix-ups, at the core of all your films there is always a couple that tries to protect their relationship – usually in a very aggressive form. Is that your take on romance in modern times?
Well, what can I say –I work with my wife (laughs). She wrote Kill List with me, she wrote Down Terrace and she wrote quite a lot of Sightseers. So I guess you could say the films are a lot from our perspective as a couple.

So the two of you like the idea of killing people off?
Yeah! (laughs) But really, it is a metaphor. It is about the art of negotiation with one another in this world. That is what is happening in the films. You have your own rules as a couple and the world has its own, larger rules and you have to negotiate through that. I mean, Kill List could also be read as being about a couple that runs a small business and is having difficulties with it. But in my films there is never going to be any chance that they are splitting up because usually in films it is all about someone cheating or someone running off and love triangles and people coming back together. It never really happens in these movies that the couples are actually struggling to survive together and protecting their love in a quite aggressive world.

Who do you make your movies for? Do you think about a certain kind of audience?
I think about me! I think about whether or not I would enjoy watching it and if I’d sit through it. If I think of an audience, then I think about one that will happily watch The Avengers and also will happily watch Tarkovskiy’s Stalker. I think most people are like that and do not follow this weird segmenting where they would only watch mainstream films or only watch high-brow stuff. So I think if it fits my taste, then there is an audience for it. And I am curious to see how the audience reacts in the Piazza. I hope it won’t rain!

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