'Simon Killer' Qu'est-ce que c'est? Brady Corbet & Antonio Campos Talk About Their Psycho Thriller
If Evil Dead isn't your idea of fun, then may I suggest a film about evil-in-the-making that also opens on Friday? It's called Simon Killer, and it stars charismatic Brady Corbet as a young American up to no good in Paris. Simon appears to have traveled to the City of Lights to recover from a bad break-up, but, as this tense, visually striking film uncoils, it becomes apparent that he's suffering a breakdown that will have lethal consequences.
Directed by Antonio Campos, who, like Corbet, was involved in another smart psychological thriller, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Simon Killer is unsettling because its title character seems so much like the charming but self-involved dude working in the adjoining cubicle next or sitting two seats behind you in class. And I sat down with Campos and Corbet to talk about how they created such an authentic character.
Movieline: Brady, a couple of times in the film, your character, Simon, talks about having studied the relationship between the eye and brain. You’re sending a message to moviegoers there.
Brady Corbet: It serves as a key to unlock a lot of the film’s mysteries. The funny thing about a good metaphor is that you can take it very literally if you want. And if you want to read into it, then it can take on all kinds of meaning. The movie has an obsession with periphery: What’s happening in the periphery of the narrative? What’s happening in the periphery of the frame? What are you seeing? What are these characters not seeing about Simon? The whole movie is about perception, as a lot of great films that acknowledge the nuts and bolts of filmmaking are. With all of Antonio’s films, you are very conscious of the camera. And part of the fun of becoming that conscious of the camera is also becoming conscious of everything that’s not on camera.
How did the Joran van der Sloot case inspire Simon Killer?
Corbet: Antonio found this insanely haunting quote from van der Sloot. He was being interrogated or interviewed and he said something like…
Campos: If my mother had described me as an animal she would say I was a snake. But I’d like to be a lion, and one day I will be a lion.”
There's a similar line of dialogue in the movie.
Corbet: The funny thing is that my mother had given me this fox pin right before we went to Paris so we swapped the snake for the fox.
Campos: I was like, “That’s perfect. That’s perfect for you and perfect for the character.”
Corbet: It’s very much how the whole movie was birthed. We’d obsess over an element, and then we’d find some way to take that element or a theme or a story and incorporate it into the narrative.
Have either of you seen Crystal Fairy?
After seeing that movie at Sundance and Simon Killer, it seems to me that there’s this emerging genre of films that depicts young coddled and self-absorbed Americans abroad who, at the very least, are jerks, but, in terms of your character, Brady, can be something much more dangerous.
Campos: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Why is this is emerging now?
Campos: I don’t know. I think that our generation is very self-aware. Even like a show like Girls is about this sort of coddled generation. And what’s so clever about Girls is that Lena Dunham doesn’t let her characters get away with it. In the first season, there was always that moment where one of the girls would get called out for how superficial or narcissistic she was.