Povodom 200 godina Frankenštajna priredio sam i napisao temat o čuvenom „ludom naučniku“ i njegovom bezimenom „stvorenju“ za oktobarski super-specijalni broj Rue Morgue magazina.
Jedan od priloga bio je posvećen i srodnom jubileju: 30 godina od premijere filma GOTHIC Kena Russella, koji na slobodan način interpretira onu noć u kojoj je rođen mit o Frankenštajnu. U članku se nalaze i izjave koje su mi dali Lisi Tribble (Mrs Ken Russell; dakle, njegova udovica) i Stephen Volk, istaknuti horor pisac i autor scenarija za GOTHIC.
Pošto je Lisi bila veoma nadahnuta za odgovore, i poslala mi mnogo više materijala nego što je bilo prostora u članku (i nego što sam joj tražio), ja sam od toga načinio još jedan intervju. Nedavno je on bio onlajn na sajtu Ru Morga, a sada ga prenosim i ovde. Mislim da vredi pažnje za sve one koji poštuju dražesno-luckastog pokojnog nestaška...
LISI TRIBBLE (MRS KEN RUSSELL) talks
exclusively for Rue Morgue
about legendary director’s fondness for horror
and the making of Gothic
Interview by Dejan Ognjanović
- What was Ken Russell’s approach to horror in general, and in his movies?
--- Ken had a special fondness for horror movies and always advised his film students to begin with a horror film “because it’s a recognisable format more easily applied and more importantly, of all the people in the industry, the nicest people are in horror.”
He was a British child who lived largely through imagination triggered by his customary high perch in the tree in the back garden, by long walks across the wooded Southampton Commons and by daily movie-going from an early age to primarily Hollywood adventure and musical films with his mum.
As a young teen, the chaotic environment of World War II and the Blitz on his South coastal hometown where they built the warships brought bombs, blackouts and a father on fire patrol. His beloved cousin Marion was killed by treading on a local landmine. Ken the kid was sent on a train with a tag around his neck to be harboured in the countryside, but he screamed so much they sent him back to his home, so screaming could be said to be his friend. Fear was a familiar companion, and we see in his films that no fears were as great for Ken as what he called “the monsters of the id” so prominent in Gothic --the mysterious neighbour named Mr Brain, the man who felt him up during Pinocchio, the “king ragworm” with which he was forced to bait his father’s fishing line, the eel which slithered on the floor of the car at his feet on the ride home from the Solent waterway, the gasmask in the closet, the terrifying movie Secret of the Loch with its giant “plucked chicken” emerging from its underwater flower-pot cave.
For a shy kid horror lived most vividly in familiar objects, in the artificial limbs displayed in Benny Hill’s father’s shop a few doors down from his own dad’s shoe shop, in the threat of the surreal, in the confusing or cruel remark, in the supernatural as seen through a child’s eyes. Childhood fears were translated as an adult into elements of horror throughout many of his films and into a lifelong belief in the incorporeal. In the same way he was able as an adult to break through what he called (in his novel Brahms Gets Laid) his “FEAR barrier” by willing and reaching a kind of lift-off into a realm of confidence and hyperbole, he often stretched the horror elements in his films to a fever pitch that included moments of grotesque or honest humour, providing a wink at the process he was engaged in and a dose of satire when one’s nerves might be on edge. The horror in his films was never the primary purpose, but more an essential part in the service of character study and a symbol of characters’ inner conflict and extreme states.
- What are some of the hallmarks of a Ken Russell film?
--- Ken always initiated a project with music, his first love. From that he created (he would say, “received”) images and all Ken Russell films show a careful weaving of image and music ––in this case via a score by Thomas Dolby— to accentuate action and atmosphere: something that all horror films do. “When filming horror,” he said, “it is primary to include the Dragging Foot.” (Cue Byron’s clubfoot, one example.)
Ken Russell’s movies usually feature exhibitionist tendencies, mechanical or metal simulacra, imps, apes or succubi, wild weather, snakes, leeches, worms, goo, corpses, skulls, cemeteries, fire, funerals, a Gothic mansion or bordello, the unpredictability of a person’s innermost thoughts and desires, the uncontrollability of sexual appetite, dances of domination and submission, instances of inhumanity, pettiness, guilt, shamelessness or revelation, the closeness of death and the urge to avoid it at all costs.
His films often have a “queer” sensibility or a willingness to topple normative sexual definitions. His films seek to balance if not banish nightmares or break tension with a kind of giddy, sometimes near-slapstick humour. The natural world with landscape, lake, weather and wildness is seen as the custodian of a mysterious, beneficent force that selectively can heal or harass. In Ken Russell films the possibility of passionate, positive connection and understanding usually survives transformed after carnivals of turmoil. Also enduring in Ken Russell films is the all-important spark of creativity —part of a natural force and possibly from an invisible dimension--- no matter what tortured soul is seen to possess it or be devoured by it. Ken’s movies tend to seek to integrate an archetypal dimension (where gods or devils or incalculable genius dwell) with the character flaws that luckily can’t stop its transmission.
What interested him was larger than life and faster than eye could follow. Ken was a man who could hear the sound of sugar pouring into a teacup from several rooms away. That said, Ken confided that he felt he might have hurt Gothic by placing the action at too fast a pace —his natural tendency. (“I live in anxiety of boring my father,” he said, “even if he doesn’t see the film.”) Even so, for him it was his best horror film and the experience of working on it was a good memory.
Of all Ken Russell’s films that could be called horror (Lair of the White Worm, The Devils, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Altered States, Trapped Ashes, Fall of the Louse of Usher, Elephant Man), Gothic is the one that is most consciously designed as a serious horror film --Gothic mansion and all. He wanted to make his Dracula all his life of course, and often said to me and investors (who typically failed to commit) that Rodrigo Gudiño, founder of Rue Morgue, was his dream choice for the leading part.
- Did he watch horror films, and who were his favourite colleagues in this genre?
--- At the time of making Gothic (1986) he said he was very impressed by all things Carpenter, Craven and by Cronenberg’s The Fly. (He later did an homage to Craven in Louse of Usher.) His interest in horror was compulsive and lifelong, his favourite directors Lang, Leni, Hitchcock, Welles, Powell and Murnau. His proudest moment, he told me, was in being invited by Mick Garris to dine with the Masters of Horror. He considered many horror directors his “friends-of-the-heart,” like Garris, Gudiño, Cronenberg, Friedkin, del Toro, Bernard Rose, Landis, Dante, Don Mancini, Holland, Hooper, Cohen, McLoughlin, Cunningham, De Palma, Ridley Scott, Fincher, Henenlotter, John Gaeta, Jon Sorensen, Cuarón, Wright, Piana, Medak and Joon Hwang-Jang.
- What was it that attracted him to Gothic?
--- Ken related to the Romantic poets’ spirit of rebellion, self-defined morals, idealism, disenchantment with traditional forms of coupling, their lyricism and its application to what they saw as a “higher purpose,” a search for a more complete truth and beauty through a relationship with the Creative in man and woman.
Ken knew from having a cottage 20 miles down the road from Mary Wollstonecraft’s final resting place in Bournemouth, Dorset (where Shelley’s death mask also resides) that she was to become a crusader for women’s and child-raising needs, so Ken was interested in foreshadowing that she might be breaking away from enchantment with the narcissistic indulgences of Byron and Shelley. The Romantics’ fondness for the Lake District, their enchantment with the macabre and the supernatural, their meta-explorations into the source and product of creativities were all things Ken shared. He was very close to this project. I don’t think Ken could be any other way in relation to a project.
- What was the shoot like? Did he relate any anecdotes to you?
--- I know little about the shoot other than that Ken liked Stephen and his writing very much and that Ken recalled with amusement being beleaguered by rain, gales and obscuring mists. I hear that there was a lot of shouting over the winds and frantic securing of props and that the picture’s budget and timetable were threatened by the storms.
Ken often repeated to me his favourite anecdotes about the shoot. Here is one of them. Ken told me that after Gothic, Stanley Kubrick somehow got his number and without preface, telephoned him directly at home. “Ken,” he said, “Stanley here.” (Ken knew his voice from documentaries.) “Uh…yes, Stanley,” Ken said, as though they’d spoken casually forever, not wanting to betray any awe.
“Tell me, Ken, where do you get these big houses you film in--?”
“Simple, Stanley, there’s a book that lists English Stately Homes properties for hire that are not off-limits due to Heritage protection—wait, I’ll get the book—“
Stanley suddenly interrupted, shouting into the phone: “OH—UH—GRR—RAH—UMPH––EE––UHH!” and abruptly hung up, leaving Ken to contemplate the mystery of life.
Five minutes later Kubrick called back and said, “Sorry, Ken, there was a fly, you see, and I had to kill it.”
- What was his working relationship like with Stephen Volk, who wrote the screenplay for Gothic? What changes did he make to his script?
--- Ken liked Stephen Volk very much, was fond of him and thought his work excellent. He had him over to the house as often as possible.
Whether Stephen was pleased with Ken’s free hand in certain interpretations is something he’s been too kind to mention to me. Ken did make some minor changes to the script. He added the animatronic belly dancer who slaps your hand when you approach her sexually, the imp from Fuseli’s painting “The Nightmare” crouching on Mary’s chest in a replica of the painting (see poster) and the lethally well-endowed dark knight-in-armour.
He also changed the beginning and ending —removing Mary as narrator who is looking back on her life. Ken gives it a “Ken Russell ending”— with the new day dawning and Mary stumbling down the marvellous stair to emerge looking harried by hell into the glorious majestic garden, where Byron, Polidori and her half-sister Claire, so recently mad, are sane and fresh as daisies, at ease on the lawn as if in a Monet garden party painting, with mastermind Byron as usual taking charge and blithely dismissing last night’s riotousness. While Mary tells her story of the relentless sinister search of her anguished, angry creature for its maker, the scene fills with tourists from the future, a curator’s voice detailing the fates of the characters on his bullhorn. Then…oh, but that would be telling.