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High-rise buildings, kaleidoscopes and slimy stranglers

As the 60th BFI London Film Festival announces its programme, we interview the director 'Free Fire', the Festival's closing film. The British filmmaker Ben Wheatley talks about psychedelia, housing issues and his outrageously greasy connections.

Ben Wheatley is the man behind some of the original, inventive and funny British films of the past few years, which have established him as UK’s foremost talent. Together for with his wife Amy Jump and producer Andy Starke, he runs the company Rook Films. Their credits include Down Terrace (2009), Kill List (2011), Sightseers (2012), A Field in England (2013) and High-Rise (2015, out now on Steelbook, Blu-Ray and DVD). He is pictured above at the setting of High Rise.

Maysa Monção from DMovies met Ben during a screening of High-Rise – a very dystopian view of housing problems in the UK – promoted by Shelter, the UK housing and homelessness charity. He told us that he grew up around Chalk Farm area and thought he would never be able to own a house in North London. He moved to Brighton because University costs were more affordable and still lives there.

The 60th BFI London Film Festival announced on September 1st its full programme for 2016. Free Fire, Wheatley’s latest feature, will be the screening of the closing gala’. The film will receive its European premiere on Sunday October 16th. If you are lucky to be in Toronto in September, you can watch it earlier at the Toronto International Film Festival.

DMovies – How is it to be invited to close BFI London Film Festival? What can you tell us about your Free Fire?

Ben Wheatley – I am very honoured and it was a complete surprise to me. It has been a few years now that we show stuff at London Film Festival [High-Rise screened as Festival Gala in 2015 and Sightseers as Laugh Gala in 2012]. Free Fire is a kind of an action movie and it is pretty funny too. I am going back to the cinema I really like. It is set in late 1970s in Massachusetts. It is an understandable action movie.

DMovies – You produced one of the dirtiest and outrageously odd films lately, The Greasy Strangler. What was there that caught your attention?

BW – I like [the director] Jim Hosking a lot. I work with [producer] Andy [Starke] and he came with this idea. I thought it was fab. I don’t like to get involved too much. I am there to support them.


Maysa and Ben before the screening of ‘High Rise’


DMovies – In both A Field in England and High-Rise there are psychedelic scenes. How were they made?

BW – For A Field in England we built a lot of lenses. We used a telescope and experimented with that. For the effect of a kaleidoscope in High-Rise, we took a carpet tube and put a triangle inside. It is all in camera. It would be very hard to achieve what I wanted in a computer.

DMovies – Tell us about working with your wife, writer Amy Jump. Do you split tasks when writing the script? Many other directors tried to adapt J.G. Ballard’s High-Rise book to the screen, but gave up in the end.

BW – We have been together since we were teens. There is a solid bond between us. It all depends on the project. For High-Rise she wrote on her own. It is an open negotiation but we don’t discuss much. Probably I wouldn’t be able to work as free as I am with her with another scriptwriter.

DMoviesDown Terrace, Kill List and even High-Rise show scenes of violence. Sometimes they are physical, sometimes they are subtle, sometimes they are psychological. What is your concept of violence in films?

BW – There are different degrees of violence in everybody’s relationships. You know, the thing about film is that we insert a short version of a conflict. And I like to make it as close as possible to the real life experience. Violence cannot be glamorous. Films take you to dangerous places you would not be in other circumstances. What is dangerous is when there is no connection between the violence in the street and the scenes we make.

DMovies – Thank you very much, Ben. We will see you at the London Film Festival closing ceremony!

By Maysa Monção - 31-08-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

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