With recent reports that Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s latest, Livide, is slated for an English-language remake, I thought this would be a good time to share a brief email interview I had with Maury last July for a Rue Morgue piece about Livide. The pair famous for Inside are definitely key directors to watch, and two of the warmest, most dedicated horror guys you’re likely to meet. (And for those who want to know what really happened during the making of that modern classic, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that there’s a whole chapter dedicated to its making in The New Horror Handbook.) Just a note on the interview below. The film is alternately spelled both Livide and Livid depending on who is writing it; I stuck with Livide to stress its French origins, while I believe Maury stressed Livid to appeal to we famously uniglot Americans. Secondly, I have left the director’s answers largely as he sent them. His English is very good, and what few missteps he makes I find, on reflection, to be more revealing than they might at first appear.
How did this whole project come about? Was this a story one or both of you had been working on for a long time?
Julien Maury: The idea first came from a ’60s french book : MALATAVERNE written by Bernard Clavel. More exactly the idea came of a frustration in the reading of the book, which tells the story of three friends who decide to break in the house of an old woman, but the moment they enter is the end of the novel and you never know what they find there. So on a quite classic story of a burglary, we just imagined what they could find inside … Our movie is a sort of a fantastic continuation of the novel mixed in a universe dominated by the ballet dance making openly a reference to SUSPIRIA.
Is “Livide” less gory than “À l’intérieur”(Inside)?
Yes, Livid is much more measured than AL’INTERIEUR. We designed our first movie as a basic ultra bloody slasher. Livid is in a different category, closer to a traditional fantasy inherited from Hammer movies. We did not necessarily want to make another hardcore film but as we cannot fight against our nature, Livid still contains some very violent sequences…
Just from the few photos I’ve seen on the movie’s Facebook page, it looks like you are again taking a very painter-like approach to the look of the movie. For “À l’intérieur,” one of your primary influences was the painter Georges de La Tour. Did you have a particular painterly influence for the look of Livide?
In terms of pictorial references, we are always fascinated by de La Tour. His way to transcribe the darkness by using a single light source has still interested us. Filming the darkness is something very difficult and for Livid, we still have worked in this direction with our DP Laurent Bares. I think that we’ve better succeded than on AL’INTERIEUR. On a completely different register, we have also been influenced a lot by the paintings of Degas. His work on the world of dance particularly and on the natural light was a good reference for all the flashback scenes. A reference for light but also for the costumes and hairstyles.
It looks like your entire cast is French. Did this make it difficult to make an English-language movie?
In fact, the movie is in French! You have information back from the time when the film was supposed to be shot in English, in Ireland, and for a much more comfortable budget. But for several reasons, this could not happen. We were losing our control over the artistic and the budget was complicated to find, so we decided with our producers (the same as for Inside) to make the project in France for a budget equivalent or even slightly lower than for A L’INTERIEUR… And it really wasn’t easy because Livid is much more ambitious in terms of action, special effects, the number of actors etc…
We haven’t shot in Ireland but in French Brittany for the same reasons we wanted to shoot in Ireland: just like Ireland, French Brittany is a land of Celtic legends and beliefs which [impassions] us and, of course, the landscapes are very cinematic. In a sense, we tried to create a legend that could exist in Brittanic folklore without feeling artificial.
From what I’ve been able to gather, this is a vampire story, but one that is more about the human element of living forever than about the vampires we are used to seeing in movies. Did Let the Right One In influence you at all in the way you approached your vampire?
We loved Let the Right One In — it was a real slap in the face for us! But the movie has never influenced us strictly speaking. The only link we have is actually the idea of the human side of the monster, which is finally only a cursed creature. In Livid, you will not see either crucifix or garlic. Vampirism is one of the founding myths of the fantastic culture but also one of the most known. It has been so handled under all its forms that it is difficult to be original. Our vision is thus the one of its deep solitude in front of the world of the living and despair arising from its abyssal lack of love… We are in love and fascinated by monsters and villains, they are always the most interesting! It was already the case for A L’INTERIEUR; for us, the real hero was not the pregnant girl but La Femme! As we often take it as an example, George Lucas did not make a new trilogy about Luke but about Vader.
Can you explain the part that Beatrice Dalle [La Femme from Inside] plays in the film?
Dalle declared one day that she wanted to play in all our movies. So we took this sentence very seriously and wrote her a role in each of the projects we developed. In Livid, she plays the main character’s mother but has only a relatively brief role in the final cut. On the other hand, narratively, she is absolutely crucial in the development of the story. This is not just a cameo.
When did filming begin? When did it end? When do you expect the movie to come out?
We began the shooting in late September 2010 to end it in mid-November. Regarding the days of shooting, we even had a little less than for A L’INTERIEUR! The theatrical release is planned in France on November 2nd. In the rest of the world, it is not known yet. Dimension bought the movie as for A L’INTERIEUR so we most likely are going the have the same kind of release in America. But we surely are going to show it in some festivals before.
From the description of the plot, it sounds that like “À l’intérieur,” this movie will also take place mostly in one house. Was this a requirement by the producers to keep the budget low?
Livid is a “closed door” only in its second part. There are numerous secondary sets, as well as several outdoor scenes, in the moor or on a fishing port for example. The difference between the approaches of the “closed door” of Livid and of A L’INTERIEUR is mainly the decoration. The house of Livid is the antithesis of that of A L’INTERIEUR. It is gigantic, with diverse rooms, less stressful than our previous movie, but much more mysterious. We wanted a building close to a fairy tale. But it’s true that we always considered Livid as a low budget movie so we deliberately have limited sets during the writing process to preserve the action and the special effects.
There was a political element to À l’intérieur, especially as it was written during a time of great unrest in France. Is there a political element to Livide as well?
No, there is no political message in Livid. In A L’INTERIEUR it was events that had marked us so we wanted to talk about it, but the real reason was because it was mainly a way to serve our history by creating an almost more stressful climate outside than inside. For Livid, we are in a realistic and credible universe in the first part to get lost in a fantasy world sometimes on the edge of a dream in the second part. Our purpose really was to make a macabre fairy tale, a strange legend that we could tell at night by the fire.
When last we spoke, you said the budget for the movie was about $8.5 million; is that still about right?
HAHAHAHAHA! Unfortunately not! This amount was the estimated budget at the time where the film was supposed to be in English. The reality is quite different because as we’ve said before, the film’s budget is slightly below 2 million Euros, just a little lower than A L’INTERIEUR.
With “À l’intérieur,” the name of the film made a lot of sense considering the plot. How does “Livide” relate to the plot of this movie?
Yes, of course, we looked for a title that makes sense in relation with our history. We don’t know if the meaning in French of Livid is the same as in English, but in French it really evokes the extreme whiteness of a face which is bloodless, but also about someone frightened — the usual way is for a cadaver. And all of these definitions are in the movie!