It's been four years since Australian filmmaker David Michôd wowed at the Sundance Film Festival with his blistering feature debut "Animal Kingdom." He's finally back with the equally violent and bleak "The Rover," which just premiered out of competition at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and opens in June via A24.
Set in the Australian outback ten years after the collapse of society, "The Rover" centers on Eric ("Animal Kingdom" star Guy Pearce), a weary, hardened man who strikes up an odd relationship with a young, socially awkward American (Robert Pattinson), after his car gets stolen. With the help of his new companion, Eric sets off on a bloody journey to track down his car at any cost.
Indiewire sat down with Michôd in Cannes to discuss his experience at the festival, why it took so long to follow up "Animal Kingdom," and why he cast Pattinson in a role sure to surprise the actor's many fans.
This marks your first time at Cannes. How's it been?
It is as I had always imagined it. The madness of it. That strange mix of money and gross-ass luxury with a true and sincere reverence for cinema. I haven't experienced it anywhere else.
How is this experience comparing to the one you had at Sundance with your debut "Animal Kingdom"?
In some ways I think the Sundance experience really suited "Animal Kingdom." I've been thinking about the Sundance experience quite a lot this week because I'm remembering what it felt like to slip into Park City completely anonymously, to be on nobody's radar, and suddenly have my life turn upside down after that first screening.
This time I feel a kind of scrutiny and a weight of expectation, that it feels quite apt to be on a red carpet with a thousand cameras going off, as opposed to that beautiful Sundance thing where there are no red carpets. There's just people in the freezing cold watching movies.
Having Robert Pattinson by your side no doubt increased the amount of flashes going off on the red carpet the other night.
Yeah, there were moments where I realized that none of them were actually pointing at me [laughs].
About those expectations, how have you dealt with them coming into the festival without driving yourself mad?
I've dealt with it by distracting myself with other work. If I hadn't I would have just spent the last several months sitting around causing myself to suffer. But it has been strange. Certainly this has become apparent for me here. I realized that I just had to let it go. I have no control over other people's expectations.
As soon as you put two movies together, suddenly the spectrum of expectations gets much narrower. I feel like I understand why comparisons are drawn to the second difficult album. I feel like if I get through this one everything will just fall into place.
Must be flattering though to even have those expectations placed upon you.
Yeah, it's terrifying and yet I feel like what's the alternative? No one cares about your film?
Are you one to read the immediate responses to your film on social media?
A little bit, but I do it while squinting. For me this is a very important process of making the movie. By the time I've finished the making of it, I feel like I've lost perspective. This is the part of the process where I get a sense of how it sits in the world. How it's being read, and really terrifyingly, what it might mean for me and the trajectory of my career.
How do you want "The Rover" to be read? To me it's an incredibly bleak, nihilistic tale. Do you see it in those terms? Critics have been labeling it an angry work, much like "Animal Kingdom."
In some ways, yeah, it is an angry movie. I feel like I was angrier when I was writing it. But at the same time I feel like "Animal Kingdom" is an angrier movie than this one. That weird of tableaux of characters you're left with at the end of "Animal Kingdom" is a pretty kind of loveless tableaux. Whereas here, where this movie ends for all of its brutality, is an almost sentimental place of human connection.
It does boast the lightest scene of Cannes, where Pattinson's character sings along to a Keri Hilson jam alone in a car.
You're the first person to bring that up! I kind of half expected it would be a thing. When I was doing press for "Animal Kingdom" every press person would ask me about "All Out of Love."
What went into selecting that song?
One of the things that was challenging for this movie was it was set in a period of the future, so it makes musical choices really kind of difficult. I'd imagine that maybe there's a sense that pop is still some kind of functioning genre, like the equivalent to classic rock. I wanted at that point in the movie to remind people that Rob's character is a lost kid, one who in different circumstances would have favored pop songs. I just wanted that moment in the film to be a strong reminder of the fact that he just wants to be a kid.
This interview continues on page 2.