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“It’s A Job That I Wouldn’t Want Or Seek Out”: Ben Wheatley Talks Film Critics

"It’s A Job That I Wouldn’t Want Or Seek Out": Ben Wheatley Talks Film Critics

Filmmakers and critics don’t always have the easiest relationship. While critics often champion challenging films that might not otherwise reach a mainstream audience (see the big success of “The Witchthis past weekend), some filmmakers believe that the opinions of pundits who have never been involved in film production at any level have little weight. Director Ben Wheatley seems to be in that camp.

READ MORE: TIFF Review: Ben Wheatley’s ‘High Rise’ Starring Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans & Elizabeth Moss

Chatting with Flick Reel, the filmmaker was candid about film criticism. “It’s a job that I wouldn’t want or seek out. As a creative person, I think you should be making stuff. That’s the challenge. Talking about other peoples stuff is weird. Why aren’t you making stuff? And if you aren’t, why should you really have a voice to complain about things until you’ve walked mile in someone’s shoes?” he said. “There are a lot of critics that I like, but I don’t get that relationship with art where you can just talk about it but not create it.”

The argument that only filmmakers can adequately critique film suggests that one cannot understand the craft of moviemaking without actually doing it, and there are plenty of fantastic writers who provide great depth to their reviews who have never shot a single frame. However, it seems as if it is reactionary criticism that Wheatley dislikes, and he noted that even his own attitude towards movies has become more nuanced. 

“I’m so lucky that I’m of an age that I wasn’t able to rant about films and put it on Twitter and message boards for the rest of time. As soon as I made my first film, I realized that my days of watching films and shouting at [filmmakers] for being terrible were totally misguided. It’s really really hard to make anything even just competent. I mellowed immediately. I’m not as judgmental now,” he said.

Thoughts? Does Wheatley have a point about film criticism? Let us know below. His latest film “High-Rise,” opens later this year. Check out the new poster below.

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Comments

Steffie

He has a very valid point! A failed actor or wannabe director might criticize other’s work like sour grapes. There could be envy involved and doing is a lot harder than talking!

Brandon Sites: Critic of Modern Day Horror

His entire argument is baseless and here’s why. He says and I quote "As a creative person, I think you should be making stuff. That’s the challenge. Talking about other peoples stuff is weird. Why aren’t you making stuff?".

The reason his opinion is baseless is, because when a critic writes a review and explains their train of thought in critiquing a movie, they are creating something. They’re creating something that reflects their own personal viewpoints. Filmmakers do the same thing. They create movies that reflects them in some way or speaks to them in some shape or form.

For a critic, it’s in a written medium, for a filmmaker, it’s in a visual medium.

Personally speaking, I’ve worked on a few movie sets. I know the work that goes into it, but that doesn’t influence my work as a critic. At the end of the day, it’s my job to write mini essays that reflect my viewpoint of a movie. The effort that goes into a production is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the finished product.

Aaron Bumgarner

I guess I’ll have to stop trash-talking McDonald’s, since I’ve never made my own French fries.

AJ

Critics provide a useful service to the public at large. I don’t want to waste my time and money to see a bad movie. Having someone view it first (a critic) and give me an opinion is very helpful.

themoviewaffler

"I don’t get that relationship with art where you can just talk about it but not create it." You don’t need to be a great chef to enjoy a great meal and be able to describe how good it tasted.

Colm

This is rubbish. Unless Ben Wheatley is using millions of dollars to make something for himself and other filmmakers to enjoy, he’s completely misguided. The primary role of the critic is to act as a member of the public (I assume the intended audience) to judge a films merits from their perspective. He forgets that while artistic integrity is important, a film still has to make money in order for more to be made and for this to happen, people other than the filmmaking community have to see and enjoy them. If the only person enjoying Ben Wheatleys films is himself then he’s not going to have a career for much longer

Dennis Harvey

Where would Ben Wheatley be if his early films hadn’t been picked out and heralded by critics at film festivals and in tiny theatrical releases? Many critics did have some experience at college or elsewhere making films (or theater, or whatever), but if you point that out, then the same filmmakers accuse them of being "frustrated would-be filmmakers" who must be critics only to wreak their revenge on successful filmmakers. Let’s face it, a lot of artists (in any medium) are very thin-skinned. They want publicity, they want praise, they just don’t want any actual criticism. But if you’re making art as public as feature films, you’re asking for an audience–and that audience will have opinions, some of which are also public. A critic is just one person’s opinion–but they’ve bothered to express it at length. Does that really make it MORE problematic than someone who just says "It’s great" or "It sucks"? If it really bothers you, do as many artists do: Don’t read reviews of your work.

Drag Me To Taco Bell

I agree that a critic should know as much about the technical side of filmmaking as possible, to accurately assess the different merits of a film. But theory and practice are two different domains.

What Wheatley doesn’t acknowledge is MARKETING. Critics serve as mediators between distributor and viewers. So their work is not just academic pontificating, it’s an appraisal of a commodity – which is a valuable service to a consumer.

NOPE

Bullshit. Critics with no experience in an artistic medium can still do comparative critique. It may be hard to make a competent or good film, but other examples of such exist, therefore, "laymen" and critics can offer an opinion on whether you have managed it. Of course there is still a spectrum from ‘idiot armchair critic’ to ‘educated critic’.

Liam "Big Banter" Naerger

Amen. Until you’ve set up a shot from inside a fridge you know nothing about films and filmmaking #PerksOfTheJob

Daryl Hannah

He has a point. Being a film critic would probably involve having to watch a Ben Wheatley movie.

re

Good for him! Maybe you can learn something from it Kevin!

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