One of the most buzzed about movies coming out of the film festival circuit has been director Tilman Singer’s debut German horror film, LUZ. During the Fantasia Film Festival, I had the chance to chat with Tilman about his film, where he drew his inspiration from, and what actually scares him.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Tilman, thank you so much for speaking with me today! There has been so much amazing buzz surrounding your film LUZ! For those who may not be familiar with your film can you tell them a little bit about it and where the inspiration came from?
Tilman Singer: LUZ is the story of a young woman being followed by a demonic entity that is in love and has wanted to be with her for quite a long time. Since we’re talking about a demon and its idea of being together is to possess someone, you can imagine the relationship would be a very toxic one.
[As for the inspiration] I was doing research on police sketch artists which later brought me to interrogation and questioning techniques. I stumbled upon police and FBI questionings in which the person being questioned is being put in a state of hypnosis. Questioning somebody in a trance in order to find out the truth turns out to be a bad idea because everything you say to somebody while hypnotized is highly suggestive and can become part of their experience. I found that this would be a great tool for an evil force in a story and so I came up with the interrogation scene which basically IS the movie. The supernatural demonic aspect came a little later.
Nightmarish Conjurings: LUZ is your directorial feature film debut. What was the process like going from directing a short film to a full feature and what were some of the challenges you faced in bringing this film to fruition?
TS: The biggest difference is that it really takes much longer. We used all of what we learned from shooting short films; for example, the virtue of shooting on real film. Having a detailed shot list worked out, rehearsing on set as long as it takes until the energy is right and then (mostly because of financial reasons) doing only three takes. However, with a feature, you have to do that for three weeks instead of one.
There were a lot of challenges, most of them financial ones. Dario Méndez Acosta, the production designer, had a lot of difficulties finding locations that were cheap in the city of Cologne, where we studied and needed to shoot. Once he got all the locations together and we began shooting, one or two days before we shot in our main location there was a pipe leak and sewage flooded the room. We had to find a new location pretty much overnight and Dario and his team had to sleep in it to get it ready for shooting. Other than that though, things went pretty smoothly. We are a good team and we trust each other. Paul Faltz (DOP), Simon Waskow (music), Henning Hein (sound design), Dario and I had worked together on many smaller projects so having a well-practiced team was one of the great advantages we had producing this movie.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When it comes to the horror genre, what sort of subject matter or themes do you find yourself being drawn too? Is there anything in particular that scares you?
TS: I think what scares people the most is what stands metaphorically for a problem or fear you have in your own life. I find those themes/subjects matters/symbols can be really hard to name. Sometimes I work on a story and I write freely or brainstorm and I get goosebumps or an anxiety attack without knowing what exactly triggered it. That’s when I know I found some kind of a symbol or metaphor that means something to me. It’s very therapeutic also. With LUZ it was some kind of human longing or lust and the violence people might use to get what they want.
Nightmarish Conjurings: The last few years have been great for the horror genre in regards to it getting more recognition. Where would like to see the genre go and is there a subgenre within the horror umbrella that you would like to tap into as a director?
TS: What I do see sometimes and what I’d love to see more of is a clever weave of form and story where film-form and story become one. Supernatural, and especially scary stories, give you so much opportunity (and even demand it) to play around with how a story is being told.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Last, but certainly not least, are you working on any projects currently that we should be keeping our eyes out for in the future?
TS: I am and please keep an eye out! It’s still way too early to tell what it will be about but I’m writing my next movie and it’s going to be another supernatural thriller where I play around with sensuous elements. This time it’s gonna get more emotional.