Colossal – a monstor movie with big ideas
Below, a thought-provoking interview with the director, including leaving the audience to find their own message, and what’s wrong with most romantic comedies:
Queston: There’s so much anger and defensiveness out there right now about any story where men come across badly. But you’re very uncompromising about that here. It’s not just one bad man — everyone in the movie fails Gloria. Jason Sudeikis has said he talked to people from the alt-right and Gamergate to try to understand his character better. Did you write the movie to take that crowd on directly?
Answer: I’m okay with movies triggering a discussion rather than trying to get general praise. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with movies confronting people. I’m so into that. I’ve seen that there’s no better gift for a filmmaker than a movie that survives through time, and for a movie to survive, it needs to make people talk about it. I understand this movie could create some discussion of that, but I’m not scared of nasty reaction or reviews. I’d just care about the movie being boring or forgettable.
All these things are out there in the atmosphere right now. Those attitudes are around in the culture. You can’t avoid the fact that you’re talking about this outlying culture. And at the end of the day, this movie’s about people who are making decisions that can affect people far away from them. Even if the movie has a political agenda, I didn’t try to pose a political agenda when I was writing it. I truly believe — I have this kind of pseudo-magical theory about films, about how films work. I believe films are more relevant than the filmmakers behind them.
Movies are able to talk about our times in a more specific way than the filmmakers intend, because movies are a product of time, and of many people working. So even if I wasn’t trying for a political agenda, I’m okay if the movie has one. I think one of the tools you need to write is a kind of innocence, an ability to let things come through you instead of you trying to have control of what you’re specifically talking about. That’s something I truly believe in.
Question: You’ve said the film doesn’t have a political agenda, that you weren’t thinking about that when you were writing the film. But you’ve also said in interviews that one of the points of the film is that people in the movie are dying in South Korea because of Americans who can’t control themselves, who don’t take people in other countries seriously enough. That seems like a very political message.
Answer: The thing is, the way I want movies to exist is, I don’t feel like filmmakers should be next to the film, making its meaning clear. The movie exists in the minds of the viewers. That’s where it becomes something real. My intentions are just something I use as a working tool. Your description of the movie has much more value than mine. I’m not trying to avoid your question — I truly believe this! If this movie is able to say something, it’s because it was created in the minds of the audience. I’m just the guy behind it. That doesn’t mean my depiction of the film is more fascinating than the one that comes from the audience.
There’s something I can confess — I was aware from the beginning that the movie was dancing around within the tropes of romantic comedies. I was very aware of playing with those tropes. I love some of those films, but at the same time, some of them are really problematic. Most romantic comedies, the message is like, “If you persist enough, you will get her.” They encourage behavior that’s terrifying these days. “If you stop her wedding, you won’t go to jail. You will just show your charms to her, and she will prefer to go to you.” So something like that was inside the kindling of this movie. I wanted to play with those rules in a different way. I didn’t want to separate myself from monster movies, but I did want to create a difference from romantic comedies.