Simon Killer writer-director Antonio Campos and star Brady Corbet (Melancholia) sat down with Movie Fanatic recently in Hollywood to talk about their new film that has arrived in theaters and is also available on VOD. As shown in the Simon Killer trailer, the film follows Corbet as the title character, a man recovering from a break-up who heads to Paris to nurse his feelings.
He meets and falls for a prostitute and the darker side of his soul begins to emerge. What happens over the remainder of the film will shock and awe. Campos and Corbet tell Movie Fanatic about the inspiration for the film and how redemption is an overused tool in film.
Movie Fanatic: What was the inspiration or genesis of the story?
Antonio Campos: The movie was born out of a period of time when I was reading a lot of books by a guy named Jim Thompson after making After School. I fell in love with his dark characters. This isn’t the same character, but Simon is the same kind of man with the themes of anxiety and confronting a darker side of yourself, and men that were at a point where things in their life were OK and they weren’t going to get any better. They won’t get any worse, just not any better. It follows the process of the downward spiral -- that release that is under the surface.
Movie Fanatic: Did you ever thinking about bringing any of Thompson’s work to the screen?
Antonio Campos: I didn’t want to adapt anything -- I just wanted to run with what he was making me think about. I had this idea of doing a contemporary story about a guy who deals with a break-up by going to Paris, falls for a prostitute and eventually tries to blackmail her. I went to Brady with that basic concept and he and I flushed out what became the outline of the film. That outline, it never changed.
Brady Corbet: Even when we tried to change it [laughs]. Honestly, I was very keen to work with Antonio because we had worked together on films in a lot of different capacities. I saw After School at the 2008 New York Film Festival before I knew him. I was wildly impressed with the film, that a young American had made it. I immediately felt like I had a kindred spirit in the city. I think Antonio would have come to me with anything and I would have followed him down the rabbit hole.
Movie Fanatic: It seems like you're turn the coming-of-age story on its head…
Brady Corbet: I was keen on the idea of subverting the coming-of-age story. I feel like coming-of-age stories are always about redemption. Most let you know that everything is going to be OK. I found it interesting and punk rock saying, “Sometimes it’s not OK.” For us as human beings, some characters in a lifetime, they are something of a lost cause. Because they’re thought to be a lost cause, not too many people take the time to look at those characters. They’re easy to dismiss. They’re on the fringe. It’s something that so few people take a look at, and it’s become Antonio’s area of personal interest in the last few years. I don’t know anyone who’s looking at those types of characters right now. I really don’t.
Movie Fanatic: Do you think that what sets this film apart from others is that redemption is not always needed?
Antonio Campos: The main difference, there has been little or no redemption in these characters. You don’t often see that, you see them explore these characters… but they are humanized.
Brady Corbet: You say humanized, they’ve actually chosen the wrong world. In fact, it’s a much more humanistic effort to be really true to a character in a way. It was important for us to not have a charismatic villain. It was more important – I really understood his intent for the character.
Antonio Campos: I think redemption has a place in real life -- but in film if it’s not necessary, you’re left conflicted.
Brady Corbet: Antonio and I, we are mutually obsessed with the frame on our respective projects. If you’re obsessed with the frame, you must also have an obsession with what’s outside the frame. There are a lot of movies that are competently made, but when it’s over it’s over. It would be easy for us to craft with a more satisfactory conclusion. It’s not for the purpose of being opaque. It’s for the viewer. We don’t want to ruin it for you.