The German possession film Luz celebrated it’s North American premiere July 20, at the the 2018 Fantasia film festival. Writer/Director were welcomed by a sold-out crowd eager to see their fresh take on the possession sub-genre.
Luz is an experimental film that follows a young cabdriver on the run from a demonic presence. After running for safety into a police station, she is placed under hypnosis for in-depth interrogation, slipping in and out of different memories as they are recalled. Shot on 16mm, Luz is a darkly beautiful film that perfectly captures an authentic 80’s aesthetic. It is a strong debut from talented filmmakers that have crafted something I will not soon forget.
We had a chance to sit down and chat with writer/director Tilman Singer and producer Dario Mendez Acosta after the film’s premiere to discuss hypnosis, horror movies (and surprisingly), Ari Aster’s Hereditary.
Nightmare on Film Street: [Luz] is a really interesting take on the demonic possession. Are you guys big fans of that genre?
Tilman Singer:I cannot say I am. I mean, I’m a big fan of movies like Possession and The Exorcist, of course but I don’t even know how many possession movies I’ve seen. It just came naturally over research because I was researching hypnotherapy, hypnosis, interrogation and questioning which is so suggestive that you cannot really find the truth when you question somebody. But it became a very clear tool for an evil entity in the movie. It was very devilish, you know, using hypnosis for bad. To manipulate somebody.
[…] People ask me, what were your influences? And of course, I am in love with Dario Argento movies and stuff like that but a lot of that were like, practical decisions that came to bit by bit. That it was a possession movie came later after I had a vision of that whole interrogation scene. And I thought I would be so great if it’s supernatural because hypnosis is something scary, kind of messing with somebody’s head.
NOFS: I wanted to ask you about the run-time. It’s quite a bit shorter than than I thought it would be. I didn’t know that going in, so I and I didn’t feel like we were missing anything. I was curious if you just wrote it that way and said ‘there’s nothing else we need to add to this’ or if it was just something that happened in editing.
TS: Pretty much. The plan wasn’t to write a feature from the beginning since this is our thesis. I just knew I wanted to write something longer, to try out a little longer form of storytelling than we did before. I was aiming for, like 30 minutes. But then the story got so convoluted that you can’t tell this in 30, and became more and more and more, and we just ended up at 70 minutes.
NOFS: What did that original 30 minute short look like?
TS: Pretty much just the interrogation, I’d say. And then the whole backstory of the character of Luz and her schoolmates and where she’s coming from, that I put on top on that interrogation. So there had to be like, kind of a foreplay and an aftermath. I think somebody called it a “long short” because it kind of is, you know? she’s entering the police station, and she’s leaving. It’s kind of a typical short movie narrative where you have one action you’re telling. Like, one visit to the store or visit to the police station and when she’s going out, movie’s over.
[…] After I knew, okay, this is gonna get a little bit more longer, and now I’m at like 40 minutes, but I still have a story to tell, I’m not done. I thought to myself, okay, I should at least go over 60, because that is like the threshold for festivals, for calling it a feature, for most of them to be accepted. So, I was going for it but then it naturally becomes 70 minutes.
And since we didn’t really think of distribution as a thesis, I just didn’t care. And also, I mean, we shot on film and we really did the math on it. We bought exactly as much reels as we ended up shooting. Like, we had half half a reel left or something at the end.
NOFS: So, a lot of this was done on first take?
TS: No, well there were some first takes but when you shoot film, it’s always good to have a second one because maybe there’s some kind of hair somewhere, even though you check of course. We have three takes in general. I don’t do rehearsals in advance. I do it all on set to get the tension and then you rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, and when you think, okay, now the energies, right, I think the next take will be the best that you have so far. And we’re on the energetic level and then we shoot. It’s so much fun.
NOFS: How was the screening last night? I was really glad to see that you guys sold-out.
TS: That was really nice. It was a really relaxed and nice screening. We had super good feedback and it was really sad to see people get turned away. They tried to fill up every possible spot but there were still people waiting. I even offered them my spot because I’m not really watching it anymore. […]And since I edited it myself, nowadays I just see like, oh this should have been shorter, this should have been longer.
NOFS: How was the reception? How did the audience like it?
TS: I think they liked it very much. You know, I always do Q&A’s after, and I enjoy them always but I’m always a little bit shy. Last night I was a little bit stoned and I [asked] them “How did you like it”? And of course as like an audience, all of them getting requested and people were like “Oh, yeah, it was good”
Dario Mendez Acosta: But I think it’s also a bit heavy for them because it’s always, “Yeah, I liked it but I don’t think I got everything”.
TS: And sometimes I don’t even watch Q&A’s. We watched Hereditary and Ari Aster, the director, was there but I did not want to talk about what I just saw. I just wanted to leave.
DMA: I was all in. I wanted to question him
TS: Yeah, you wanted to question him but I was like, ‘No, I don’t want this’, and I wanted to be with myself and like sort that shit out, you know?
DMA: And I was too scared. I don’t want to be alone. I’m there where the most people are
NOFS: It’s weird how many people didn’t like that movie [but] I really want a slow, low-key scare and I think that’s what you’re doing with Luz as well.
TS: Yeah, there’s no jump scares. Just a progression into more and more creepiness.
NOFS: So, you said you don’t watch a lot of horror movies?
TS: No, I do, I do. When I was a child I remember clearly I remember the time I was too young to watch horror movies. My parents didn’t let me but I was obsessed with like monsters and scary stuff and violence as a child and I remember my grandmother taking care of me for like two weeks when my parents were on vacation and I forced her to tell them the all the scary movies she’d seen in her life. And she hadn’t. I think she just made up movies and I have some kind of werewolf story in my head that my grandmother clearly came up with because I tried to find it online and it does not exist the way she told it. But yeah I remember I fought my parents to finally even watch things like Jurassic Park. I remember I was too young to see Jurassic Park and then I could and it was awesome and scary!
DMA: I’m not good for watching horror movies and, also all this new stuff, this jump scare stuff. This is not working for me and also, I don’t want to be scared but with Hereditary it’s just like it’s something happening there. It’s magical for me and when I asked him like I wanted to know his influences but also different artists to see [more diverse] art than just movie art. And he totally did that. He told me about like several photography artists and it’s interesting to me because I use this also for inspiration.
Tilman showed me a lot of old movies that I should watch that I should know for working on [Luz], like Suspiria and it was really helpful because it was like ‘oh man, it’s like all copper’ or whatever and it’s like ‘oh, you can do this,’ and it’s fine super freeing for me like oh yeah, thank you. I’m going to do that, thsi is really awesome. In general, like, horror movies, I don’t know. I don’t like to be scared, but you have this magic on me working. This is awesome.
TS: For me it’s not really the scare or the horror, or the terror of it, it’s just- you know, you’re always looking for some kind of conflict and it comes natural with a horror movie or with a supernatural movie, and I like a supernatural element as a standard for something that might be concrete but you don’t want to put it into words. Like, I don’t know incest or rape you can just have a monster symbolically there for it and you can actually talk to more people and give them a safe space to enter, a space like this. For me because it’s so abstract, and then it really touches me emotionally because even though it’s more abstract, it’s about a monster or it’s about the devil or about anything, I don’t get so distant.
NOFS: It gives you the ability to talk about it without feeling like you’re going to close to it.
TS: Yes, I think that’s what I like about horror movies
Luz celebrated its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 20th and was recently acquired by Yellow Veil Pictures. Read our full review of Luz HERE.