Argentina is strongly represented at this year’s CPH PIX. This claim is well supported by the surreal horror film ’Murder Me, Monster’ ('Muere, monstruo, muere'), directed by Alejandro Fadel. The film was shown in the Un Certain Regard competition at Cannes Film Festival, and it received critical praise for its surreal atmosphere and its idiosyncratic approach to established genres.
’Murder Me, Monster’ begins as a crime story, but slowly the mystery unravels and covers the Argentinean wilderness like a dense fog. There is a real sense of paranoia and a nasty undercurrent of sexual destruction as the detective Cruz searches for the man (or monster?) who rapes and kills women.
Learn more about Fadel's latest picture below, and catch the last screening at Gloria on Tuesday 9 October at 21.15.
Your film, ‘Murder Me, Monster’ premiered in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section. On the surface, it could come off as a simple 'whodunit' story, a psychological horror thriller, but it’s much more than that. How would you describe it yourself?
Maybe it’s more of a psycho-analytical thriller than a psychological thriller. The problem with the psychological thriller is that ‘psychological’ invites interpretation, it prompts you to think that there is something you should know or decode. And that doesn’t interest me so much, the idea that every image or sound in a film is there to be interpreted, or to be assimilated and integrated in a closed story, in a closed message. I prefer to think that the fantastic part of the film, the fantastic story, the idea of the monster, they are all there to open and invite new questions, not to close them. The story is not meant to be closed. Rather, to open the film is to open another dimension of questions.
Could you say a few words about the beginning? That’s what a lot of people seemed to be talking about after the premiere in Cannes. The first couple of scenes are very disturbing.
The first shot was very complex to shoot. I was there from the beginning of the scriptwriting. It was partly analogous, which we tried to do on set, but we finished in post-production. What I had in mind was not possible so we finished in post-production. So for me, the first shot was not as strong as intended because I knew the construction. But I know that for the viewers and the spectators, the beginning is quite strong. But yes, I decided to start off with a strong image to let the image in your brain direct your feelings for a few minutes. And to allow time to enter the film little by little. And after some minutes, the film takes on another rhythm, which is the real rhythm of the film.
Can you talk about your inspirations for the film? Who and what inspired you to make a film like this?
Some people have mentioned Lynch. But the main idea was simply to go back to my home town to shoot a film. Is was born there, and I lived there for 18 years. It was the same with 'Los Salvajes'. At first, my idea was a type of documentary, to capture a certain feeling of emotion, and to shoot in that specific area. I was sure that I wanted to make a film in the winter in the mountains in the town where I was born. So that was the beginning. There was no story. It was more of a documentary. The main inspiration was to stay some days in the mountains where I used to go to when I was a kid, and try to shoot in a way that allowed the camera, the lense and the microphone to catch the same strong spiritual atmosphere I felt when I was a teenager. I have also been inspired by classical painters of landscapes. The English painters and the Romantic German painters. But if you ask me about cinema, I was drawn to Robert Bresson and John Carpenter. Two film-makers I was obsessed with in those days. One comes from France, one from North America, two countries that gave birth to cinema at the same time. One rooted in religion, one rooted in politics. They were two strong believers. I often find that their films were ‘only’ cinema, in the sense that the camera moved and showed you something allowing you to experience and feel an emotion. It all came from the an image and or a sound, nothing came from the background, the story, from an explanation, or from psychology. I don’t mean to compare myself to these two masters, but I like to think that a film is like an abstract painting that we can only find a way to enter individually.
You use the landscape a lot. Nature and natural elements make up a major part of the film. Can you elaborate on this? You said before it was your hometown and that is why you wanted to make a film out there.
I thought I wanted to shoot this in the mountain. I was in love with the mountain for twenty years, but when I came with the camera, it wasn’t working. So I went with my intuition and decided to use the landscape. I decided to work with the landscape in a non-realistic way, but rather in an expressionist eway. And this is why I decided to go to the painters. I wanted to convey the feeling of the landscape, and a realistic portrait of it. So the question was how the camera could mediate the landscape and a strong atmosphere. When the course of the film takes on a crazier direction, and the characters go into a darker zone, the landscape begins to speak more. I tried to work the landscape as another kind of truth, another kind of emotion, and convey a landscape that doesn’t give you a sense of freedom. A landscape that can make you feel like in jail, be it a mental kind of jail, or a physical kind of jail. I sought to shoot the landscape in a claustrophobic way and make the viewer or the spectator feel estranged in nature.
Can you speak a bit about the monster? Is the monster inside of a character?
We have a masculine monster… but it has a vagina too. What does it represent? I hope we have different opinions. But with the predominate political correctness of our time, we’ll see. Is the masculine monster a representation of toxic masculinity? Men are shit, and girls are victims? I don’t agree. Actually, it would be great if a very radical feminist wrote about the film.
It also goes back to a teenage idea to make a film with a monster. I didn’t want to use the monster as a symbolic element to portray the devilishness of the world etc. because the monster has others parts and levels of representation… I was trying not to be so metaphoric so I decided to work in a very limited way with the monster. In a time when you make everything completely digital and more realistic depending on the time and the budget,. I decided to work with an analogic monster and work with real materials, an actor and different techniques that go back to the dawn of cinema, in order to make the spectator to believe in a way. And to make the spectator accept that they are dealing with fantasy as well as the real thing. I tried to work with the old-school monster that I liked when I was a fan of classical monster films. So it was a pleasure as a film-maker, and maybe felt like a present to the teenager I was when I started getting into films.