“Bastards” is one of the most divisive films to hit the festival circuit this year. Our own Jessica Kiang reviewed the film at Cannes and wrote that the Un Certain Regard film “has so far not so much divided as cleaved” audiences. We saw it on Friday at the New York Film Festival and would have to agree that it certainly will make you feel strongly one way or the other (and you won’t look at a corncob the same way again). Whether you love it or leave the theater with distaste, there’s no denying that Claire Denis is a filmmaker who can evoke very forceful emotions. Right after the screening, Denis sat down with Kent Jones and discussed the controversial film,
the restriction of dialogue, the portrayal of women as victims, and much more.
Opening up to questions from the press, Denis discussed her aversion to classic dialogue and scene construction. Describing dialogue as a jail (“it’s like designing the breaking of the scene”), Denis said that when it’s involved as a conversation, “I have a tendency to dislike the scene immediately in the script” and that she prefers characters “monologue-ing” to others. Denis tried to rationalize this tendency saying that maybe it’s because she wasn’t talented and said, “I’m not witty. I’m a very sinister person” (and after the audience’s slight giggles, she insisted she wasn’t trying to be funny).
Going along this “sinister” line, Denis talked through the decision process of why she shot the final scene as she did (avert your eyes for spoilers). Specifically, she started by clarifying that the music video style juxtaposed with the kinky corncob-involved sex was “not to be aggressively disgusting or whatever. No, it was like, for me, reality of video, which is fake and it almost looks like a painting as if a video was erasing what’s happening, but it’s video for survey, it makes that image more crude.” Also adding that the choice of song was meant to be that disconcerting—”adding a little horrifying thing to the image, it’s like a terror, ‘Bring Your Love To Me.’ ” Later on when asked more about the film’s point-of-view (or more specifically, who the audience/viewer is meant to be throughout the film), Denis answered, “The camera is not your eye and it’s not the eye of the audience. I don’t think it’s my eye either. It belongs to the film.”
Considering the sordid (or seedy) interlinking storyline concerning sexual abuse and exploitation, Denis commented on the issue that women are portrayed very negatively whenever such unsavory circumstances come to light in the news or gossip-mongering outlets. “The guilt is on them always,” Denis said. “For men, it’s different because ‘It’s in their nature, they can’t help it.’ ” Bringing the point home, Denis continued, “Mothers, daughters, sisters, they’re a bitch.”
On a more inspiring feminist note, Denis stated, “I hate the victimization of women, always. They’re a victim, for sure, often. I don’t want the film to give them only pity. I want them to be fierce. For me, I think it’s better.” Check out the Q&A in its entirety
below along with the new poster for the film (via The Dissolve). The New York Film Festival continues through October 13th. “Bastards” hits theaters and VOD on October 23rd.