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IN CONVERSATION WITH
DAVID VERBEEK


In DEAD & BEAUTIFUL, five rich twenty-somethings fend off the boredom of their privileged lives by concocting extravagant experiences for one another. One morning however, they awake to discover they have vampire fangs and an unquenchable thirst for flesh blood.

 

In conversation with FRIGHTFEST, Dutch born director David Verbeek discussed the existential crisis facing western society, and film as an interrogation of the “experiential economy.

 

FRIGHTFEST: DEAD & BEAUTIFUL feels like an exercise in world building. Is it your intention to build worlds that play on our everyday reality, giving them an heightened sensibility and their own identity?

 

David Verbeek: My primary interest in filmmaking when I started out was to find environments that inspired me - usually big cities. I deliberately came to China because at that time it was this rising giant. The cities were massive, but they were still not developed. There was a cinematic and dramatic thing already, because the lives of the people was changing so fast.

 

At first I just wanted to realistically capture this society, to accurately portray like a documentary filmmaker what was happening at this moment in time, and in this place. I wanted to do it with nice photography and atmosphere, and if you look at my earlier films like SHANGHAI TRANCE, you see someone who is interested in the sociological aspect of it, but photographed in a nice way.

 

Later on I became more interested in doing psychological world building - what does it look like through the eyes of the character? What is the arena? How do we amplify that to become more immersive than just an accurate portrayal of a real big city? Also, how does the human mind function, and how do you tell a story in a way that's more interesting than a linear one? For example, I did a film called FULL CONTACT about a drone pilot that goes into his guilt trauma. The people he feels guilty about killing come into his mind again and again, until he finds a way of psychologically dealing with them, that sets him free from his guilt. The story is motivated by a psychological concept rather than a story built with three acts, and so I became more interested in finding psychological ways of telling a story.

 

DEAD AND BEAUTIFUL also comes from a psychological interest in what affluent wealth does to people. We live more in not so much of a “material economy”, but an “experience economy.” It's an economy of how we can experience certain things we want to experience in our lives. It's not about the car you have, it's about the things you can experience with the car, like organising an illegal Lamborghini street race.

 

It's experiential and that's why I also chose to go into genre, to trick the audience into feeling they're watching a real genre film, because the characters in order to get kicks out of life trick each other into thinking they might be vampires. It’s also to test one another - what does this do to each other psychologically, and what are they capable of?

 

As I've done more films, I've become more interested in amplifying certain states of mind, and becoming more surrealist in my visual expression.

 

 

FF: The vampire never has to fear death, which changes the dynamic of what it is to experience life. The themes and ideas of the sub-genre are a reflection of who we are as human beings and our deeper anxieties, especially the existential questions.

 

DV: The scene that comments on that is on the roof, when Alex tells Lulu what fascinates him most about vampires is eternal life and eternal love. From that point on you realise the film is essentially a love triangle, and a very bitter one.

 

The main point of the film is it shows the state of mind of having everything you could want materially, does not make it easier to reach the other. This goes back in history when we look at Marie Antoinette, who invited her friends to join her and pretend that they were peasants for a weekend. The super-wealthy have always felt the need to entertain themselves by pretending that they were something else, because apparently everything loses its taste.

 

I just finished the series SQUID GAME a few days ago, and the conclusion is the same as DEAD AND BEAUTIFUL. The old man says more and more of his rich clients say the same thing, that everything loses its taste. “I just want to have fun; I just want to be in the moment; I just want to be vulnerable.” If you take the vulnerability out of life, then it loses its excitement. Those people that have lost their excitement because they never have to worry about anything, are constantly looking for it.

 

It's not just to talk about the super-wealthy, it's to talk about all of us because we're spoiled with entertainment, with things like Tinder and the abundance of choice, and trying something else out all the time. We are an entire generation whether rich or not, looking for the next experience.

 

There’s a crisis of meaning in western society. It's affecting all of us, and that's why DEAD & BEAUTIFUL is not only talking about this group of affluent youngsters. They're in an amplified state of what we all more or less are, and that's why it might be a good subject. It’s probably why SQUID GAME is very popular because it’s something that deals with the reality of our lives.

 

DEAD & BEAUTIFUL premieres on Shudder, 4 November 2021.

 

Paul Risker.

 

 

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FrightFest is the registered trade mark of London FrightFest Limited.
 © 2000 - 2018