CHRISTOPH BEHL INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Simon Bland
Christoph Behl’s Argentinian apocalypse movie What's Left of Us may look like just another zombie movie but underneath lies a powerful drama that questions how we communicate with others.
In Behl’s world, an unknown terror has ravaged society. However, instead of replaying the same old survival tropes, we stick to the confines of a small flat, holed up with three survivors whose isolated existance has pushed their relationships to the limit.
To find out more, we talked to director Christoph Behl about inspiration, tension and zombie therapy…
Simon Bland: Where did the initial idea for What's Left of Us stem from?
Christoph Behl: A few years ago somebody invited me to write a low budget script for a terror movie with limitations, there only had to be three characters in it and it had to be in one location. I wrote that script, it was a bad zombie film and it didn’t work out, but later I went back and thought ‘Okay we can do something with this’. While we were rewriting we went more and more towards the character version.
SB: What was it about setting the film in one location that appealed to you?
CB: We took everything out that was set outside from the script because it made the whole character story much weaker. It was impossible to tell our story in the middle of a street fight, it didn’t work, so to get deep into the character we decided to stay in one location.
SB: How hard was it filming entirely in one location?
CB: It was very different. You put 40% of the production stress out because you don’t have to move from one location to another. It’s good. You can make basic lighting and work much faster. The shots you are more limited with of course, and we were even more limited because the whole film was the same lense. Everything was part of the movie, there was no background, we made the whole house look how we needed it to. It was good. You go into your location and film.
SB: It gives the film a really claustrophobic feel. Did your cast feel quite claustrophobic?
CB: Yeah of course. We felt the tension and there were a few moments where we were confused about are we shooting or are we living it. Everything played into this claustrophobic feeling, the place was a little claustrophobic and the cast spent a lot of time together, hung out a lot together and we filmed 14/15 hours a day so the atmosphere of the filming mixed with the atmosphere of the shooting
SB: After a day shooting were they eager to have time alone?
CB: Of course. We made time for a lot of rehearsal in the place without the camera so they got use to the place and being there with each other and then they went home and for some of them it was difficult. For example Lautaro who played Axel, he had to take the fly tattoos off every day because he didn’t want his son to see him with the flies all over his body.
SB: That must have been a pretty time consuming piece of make-up to put on and off…
CB: Yeah, three or four hours every day. It was not so much fun but we found a good solution. We made it with those artificial tattoos that you use as a child. We printed thousands of these stickers and put them on, that was easier than painting it.
SB: There’s also real flies constantly in the actor’s faces. Was that to hit home the intensity of the relationships?
CB: I don’t know how to explain that. They're good actors and go deep into the story, there’s no more than that. What we did that maybe helped was film the scenes entirely. We didn’t make shots, we always filmed the whole scene and worked with the camera in the scene. They didn’t work for the camera, that maybe helped to get a unique sensation.
SB: As a director did you do anything that intentionally made the actors feel more uncomfortable?
CB: No, not really. It’s their work to prepare themselves. Every actor has their own way to get to certain stages of feelings. Vickie for example, she liked to be apart from everything else and work alone for half an hour walking about but no. I don’t want to manipulate my actors.
SB: Was there much improvising on set?
CB: Yeah we improvised a lot, we changed the whole script. We also edited on the set so we changed not only the dialogue of the script but we cut whole scenes out and put new ones in, so we were changing the whole time. That’s another advantage when you film in one location. You can do whatever you want.
SB: There’s no score in the film. Why is that?
CB: I like very much the idea that when the music appears in the film it has to be a very special moment where it generates a lot of illusion and then the illusion goes down again. When you go to a new plot point and you put music through the speakers and everything changes, you think ‘Wow, I’m in a real Hollywood film, this has a happy ending and twists and turns’ and then the music stops. I needed the music for certain moments so I couldn’t put other music anywhere else and I also liked the idea of putting violence sounds through the speakers, so we can hear the outside. We don’t see it in the film but we can hear it all the time.
SB: On the surface, people might see this film as a horror but it’s far more about relationships. What is it about human interaction that appeals to you?
CB: I wanted to think about communication with the film and how we communicate. They have different communication methods in the film and we separated them. They have communications within the house which is difficult and then we have the spoken communication through the cameras. I wanted to play with that. They can only talk to each other when they’re not actually together. I wanted to separate this and think about the separation of people filming themselves, filming another, watching what the other filmed...
SB: Was the zombie aspect a tool to allow you to look at these relationships?
CB: No not only. When you see the whole story, the film is like the end of the story. The last months. You can see they have spent a lot of time in this place and when they bring the zombie in, for me, it’s an important development and a sign that really everything is going down. It’s their future, you can see what they’re going to turn into. I really liked the character of the zombie too. It’s a very difficult character for them and for us. They torture the zombie. A zombie doesn’t feel but you cannot torture him - all these questions they have between each other play out through the zombie.
What's Left of Us is available to buy now from Amazon. HorrorTalk would like to thanks Christoph Behl for taking the time to talk with us.
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