Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans

Director Andrew Semans’ RESURRECTION depicts an unsettling and disturbing struggle for power. Margaret (Rebecca Hall), on the surface seems to be the picture of success, but the sudden reappearance of her abusive ex-partner David (Tim Roth), begins to tear down the life she has built with her daughter.


In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Semans discusses how RESURRECTION was shaped by an unfortunate real life experience, that sparked his interest in the psychology of abuse.


FRIGHTFEST: Why film as a means of creative expression? Was there an inspirational or defining moment?


ANDREW SEMANS: Possibly because I'm a masochist. I don't know, sometimes you have an impulse to tell a story, to create something, and then in this kind of film making at least, you set up as many possible obstacles towards the realisation of that goal as you can – financial, temporal and practical.


It’s a tough medium to work in, but it always seemed inevitable that I’d get into movies because I loved them so much and growing up it was a major preoccupation for me and my entire family. Both my parents were in the performing arts, and my father has worked in film.


I’m excited by the form and what you can do with it. There was no "Eureka!” moment when I was young where I thought, 'I must get into movies, that's the career for me.’ It was always hovering in the background, and it never occurred to me to try to do anything else.


FF: How have your films shaped these ideas of what the cinematic form can be?


AS: … Since college, I haven’t approached movies and movie making in a theoretical way. Ever since I decided I wanted to make narrative films, I approach it narrative first - what are the appropriate formal choices for a given story, for a given character, and how do we shape that movie to reinforce the narrative and the themes? I don't have a particular philosophy and it's really on a project-by-project basis.


FF: Interviewing filmmaker Sean Brosnan for MY FATHER DIE, he explained: “I know a lot of friends who pick their themes first or they’ll pick a story and then say: ‘What do I want to explore?’ I find for me that is very limiting because I just like to explore a world and its characters; to see what theme comes out of that and to let the story dictate it.” Each storyteller takes a different approach. But to speak about theme, are you attentive to specific themes from the outset or is it a journey of discovery?


AS: It's a little bit of both. In the case of RESURRECTION, it was a long time ago that I started writing this script. If memory serves, I knew I wanted to write a psychological thriller, and I knew I wanted to make something that was based around an extremely basic and primal conflict that anyone could understand.


An exercise I'll do from time-to-time, when I'm trying to come up with a story, character, or a kernel of an idea is to think about what frightens me. What's a basic and enduring fear that I carry with me, and will continue to? Fear is a fertile ground for narrative, and I started to think about fears around parenthood - basic fears like, will I be a good parent? Can I keep my child safe? Can I protect them from injury, or exploitation etc?


I didn't have a child at the time, but those fears felt frightening. They felt real and present, and so I started to think about writing something around parental fear, and that led me to thinking about the parental vigilante, or parental revenge sub-genre of movies like TAKEN and DEATH WISH.



These are stories where parents whose children are imperilled or threatened, suddenly transform from ordinary people into these unstoppable avengers, these superheroes, in this special set of circumstances. I became interested to see if I could fashion a narrative in that space.


As I was trying to develop an idea within this genre, a good friend of mine became involved in a very unfortunate relationship with a toxic and manipulative individual. I began to witness first-hand the techniques these malignant, narcissistic people use to manipulate and abuse their victims.


I became interested in the psychology of abuse, both in terms of victim and victimiser. To understand what was happening to my friend and the relationship she was in, and to do my best to help her, I became pre-occupied by this. Everything I was learning around the themes of abuse, manipulation and sociopathy started to inform this story.


… How it works is there's a notion of a movie I want to make and theme I want to touch on. Your own lived experience and what you're seeing and doing starts to pour in and influence the shape of things. Over time it all settles into what it becomes, and this became RESURRECTION.


FF: The focus on the domestic could translate to our wider social and political world, in which these themes of control, manipulation, abuse and sociopathy have a potential resonance.


AS: This film was never intended to be a broader commentary on society at large, and it's not a political film. It's a psychological film, a character study, about a very specific set of emotions and experiences. If it has a greater resonance, like the one you describe, then that's fantastic. It would mean we touched on something that felt truthful, but that was never the intention. It was always intended to be a psychological film, a character study, and not something with an explicitly political, satirical, or editorial intent.


FF: Is the way a story works independently of its creator and resonates with an audience, the subversive nature of the form?


AS: Any work of art worth its salt will extend beyond the intentions and the narrow focus of its creator. The great thing about art is that it's not strictly governed by its maker, and in any good work of art, there's a healthy dose of undigested and unconscious material that may touch upon things that the creator doesn't intend. Hopefully that's something that’s fertile and interesting and gives the work itself life beyond the parameters the creator has set.


It’s something that I can't speak to in relation to this movie, but if it has some sort of meaning, or resonance beyond that which I brought to it consciously, that's great. I don't know what that is, that's up to the individual viewer, but I hope it’s there. You always want to productively lose control of your story, or your subject.


RESURRECTION is available on Digital courtesy of Universal.


Paul Risker.


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