Last month, Liminal Worlds brought you an exclusive, abridged, interview with Ben Wheatley, director of Kill List, High Rise, and the newly released In The Earth. The full interview, until now, has only been available to Liminal Worlds Patreon supporters. As a wee gift to all you liminal lovelies out there in the betwixt and between, here’s the rest of our conversation. We discuss the idea of cinemas being liminal spaces. How watching movies on original film, rather than digitally, can alter the experience. And how movies really can be magick…
LL: So, I’m going to give you one final question and then I’ll let you loose on your afternoon, especially since it’s Friday. This one is more about cinemas and the making of films in general. For myself, I find cinemas and theatres highly liminal places, in the sense that you know that you’re literally travelling without moving, both through time and space. You’re in your seat, and then you’re literally whipped off to here, there, and everywhere, inhabiting different bodies. With films, you’re producing work for the cinema, for people who, hopefully, will soon be able to safely sit in the dark and be presented with this portal of the screen lighting up, and so I guess what I’m asking is, does this liminality of the picture house in a way inspire the stories you write, and the aesthetics that you create within your films? Do these elements mean that you can really go for broke even more, or does that not even come into it in any way?
BW: Well, you know historically there’s two types of cinema. There’s filmed plays, which is like the prestige kind. They thought, “oh, here we got this film camera, we can actually capture this stuff that 200 people could watch at a time. And that’s what people want because they’re tried and tested narratives. But then you’ve got the other side, which is the kind of Nickelodeon, end of the pier, cinema is ‘a ride’. Which is your classic, “oh it’s a train coming into a station”, and all that kind of stuff. Then you see that split out into modern cinema, where you’ve got your Oscar movies, and you’ve got your popcorn movies in there. They kind of seem to be two different sets of experiences, and I think that thing of the capturing of people and the use of the space to make them feel in a way that is uniquely cinema, is a kind of rollercoaster ride thing.
The filming of plays is like, it’s alright, it’s a thing, and it works to a degree, but it’s not what makes cinema unique, I don’t think. It’s that marriage of sound and light, that’s the unique thing, and also the time base of it, to a degree. I mean it does affect the way I make stuff because I want to be able to use it to its full extent. That’s where you get those kinds of aggressive editing, the particular use of sound, and exploring that end of it because I find that that makes the experience the most acute when you do that.
It’s like a dream, the whole thing is a dream. There’s nothing that’s real about filming. In the way that it moves from scene to scene or the way that the perspective changes, it’s very strange. You imagine if you’ve never seen a film before, it would completely freak you out in terms of, it’s not an experience you’d ever have. You don’t edit in life, unless you’re knocked on the head with a brick. That’s the only time you cut from one thing to another. That thing of moving round the room and looking at all the faces, but you’re one of the faces. It’s very strange, the whole thing. And I think that thing of going in the room, being quiet, not being able to go out, and then you’re kind of mesmerised by the flickering light.
I mean they say that the refresh rate of cinema is a thing. If you watch a film, on film, the flicker of the 24 frames a second is different from watching it on digital, in a cinema even, where the refresh rate is a different rate. And that kind of flicker is part of the thing that kind of mesmerises you into the space, and it’s a different experience watching digitally, which is true, I think. That persistence of vision thing is something we played with in A Field In England. Of having multiple streams of persistence of visions. You know you can feel it scraping into the back of your head.
LL: Yes! It’s not just the story, that’s jarring, but the visuals too. It’s not an easy film to watch, literally, but I like it for that. I don’t want to be served something. I want to be able to think.
BW: Yeah, that’s what I’ve always thought too. I’m a big fan of Czechoslovakian cinema and Russian cinema, and I often will sit through those movies not knowing what’s going on, but just thoroughly enjoying it, but that kind of experience seems to be less and less, if you were to believe people on Twitter. It’s like; “why isn’t it this?” and “why isn’t it that?”, but you know, that’s fine. But that’s what I always want from a film, to be taken away, and magicked away to somewhere where it’s all new, and you don’t know what’s going on, and what’s going to happen, and you’re kind of experiencing it.
The abridged interview with Ben; Lady Liminal Takes A Trip With Ben Wheatley, is available to read. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Liminal Worlds Patreon supporter, just click on the link below. There’s lots of great bonuses that will be gearing up over the coming months.
LET’S GET LIMINAL PEOPLE!