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Filmmaking As Therapy: Antonio Campos and Brady Corbet Discuss How Bad Breakups Fueled 'Simon Killer'

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire April 4, 2013 at 11:32AM

The filmmaking collective known as Borderline Films have been responsible for the dark dramas "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and "Afterschool." They're back in theaters this Friday with their most disturbing (and sure to be divisive) project to date, "Simon Killer."
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"Simon Killer"
IFC Films "Simon Killer"
When I caught the film at Sundance there were quite a few walkouts when things took a turn for the dire. Did you find yourselves having to defend it at screenings?

AC: There were some screamers. It just sucks because people react to the film because of the way it made them feel instead of stopping and exploring why it made them feel the way it did. It’s very easy to see a film like this and just get angry, and I think its fine.

I don’t mind people voicing their anger because at least you can talk about that instead of someone storming out or just being like "I can't believe I saw that" and getting all upset about that. Because I never react to a film like that. I react more if the filmmaker seems lazy or the filmmaking seems lazy. Or if things seem too easy with the way things play out. That’s what upsets me as opposed to someone challenging me and making me watch something I don’t want to see.

BC: And there are so many movies, and content not just movies, that are really wolves in sheep’s clothing. I think the funny thing about this is that it’s the opposite. In many ways the film’s themes are a sheep in wolves’ clothing. It’s a film that presents itself in a more ferocious way than it actually is. The film is not particularly violent, its no more violent than any film you’d see on television, significantly less even.

Just more sex.

AC: Not really though. You watch HBO, anything on HBO. The film is kind of reflective of what’s going on culturally and what’s accepted culturally, except there is an undercurrent of violence that comes along with this film that makes it slightly more difficult to watch. And there is no attempt to force the eroticism of the shot. It is what it is. And if you find something erotic you can be turned on by it, but the film presents sex in a very direct way. I think people like sex presented in a more flowery, romantic way. They want angles. Everybody wants angles. And sometimes we give them one angle that’s very direct and they say "oh, I want to see more. I want you to make this thing for me as opposed to bodies and bodies." It’s just bodies having sex and that’s what it would look like, but people want angles.

"Simon Killer"
IFC Films "Simon Killer"

Are you both inherently dark guys? You've both made careers out of hard-hitting thrillers/dramas.

BC: It’s a little bit of a stock answer so forgive me, but the truth is that my personal interest when I’m writing something tends to be an exploration to the darker side of humanity, whether it be a victim or a perpetrator, but the thing is that part of the reason we are probably not dark guys is we exorcise the stuff. I look at headlines sometimes that just make me cry. The only way for me to get through this life in a way is to acknowledge the things that frighten me and face the fears that I have. I think I’m quite the opposite, a really gentle person.

But that’s just on the creative side; on the acting side part of it's just that it worked out that way. I just chose to work with some of the greatest directors alive (and they chose me as well). For me it was always about the filmmakers and they tend to be interested in exploring darker subject matter because it's philosophically weightier, it's meatier. It’s just more compelling, there’s more to explore there. The things that I feel good about in my life I don’t need to talk about very much. I enjoy those things every day.

So filmmaking as therapy in a way.

AC: Yes, filmmaking is absolutely therapy.


This article is related to: Interviews, Simon Killer, Brady Corbet, Antonio Campos, BorderLine Films, IFC Films