In an interview, US director Jordan Peele talks about his philosophically enjoyable science fiction blockbuster “Nope” – and about Trump fans who are surprised by his subversive films.
Oscar winner Jordan Peele’s third film hits theaters: a blockbuster like no other. Shot in the high-resolution analog Imax format, it takes you into a realm between western and science fiction. And into a no man’s land between Hollywood, shaped by white myths, and the suppressed, overwritten history of black people. The central location is a ranch run by an Afro-American horse breeder to provide Hollywood with trained animals. Even his great-grandfather, a jockey, played a (forgotten) role in media history – as a model for the photo pioneer Edward Muybridge and his movement studies. As the rancher observes a mysterious celestial object, a falling object fatally hits him. Rather unsuccessfully, his two children take over the business and sell animals to an amusement park owner. This former child star also has a history as a Hollywood fringe figure, but now big business beckons: What would pictures of the unidentified flying object that looms like an eye over the California desert be worth? The problem: what it sees, it devours, and it remains invisible to digital cameras. Rarely has a blockbuster made the “cinema of attractions” and questions of representation itself the subject of such an artistic way.
Mr. Peele, seeing your film reminded me of going to the cinema alone when I was twelve to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I was blown away by the beautiful puzzle in front of me on screen.
This is a very important phase of life, it’s the first time you’re able to understand an adult film and make it your own. That is formative. For me they were: “Glory”, “Thelma and Louise” and “Aliens” – although I didn’t see the latter in the cinema. It’s a big compliment.
The first riddle of your film is the sinister biblical quote at the beginning: In Nahum 3:6, God threatens: “I will cast filth on you, and desecrate you, and make a play of you.” What were you driving at?
The concept of the spectacle was at the heart of what I wanted to work out right from the start. And in that analysis, I quickly found myself on my own doorstep, the Hollywood film industry. I added this quote last of all when I realized what this film is: a celebration of spectacle and cinema, but it is also a piece of education about this city. This threat from God, this punishment of our sins for monetizing the spectacle. And in the knowledge that at the end of the film there would be a pleasurable liberation from this threat.
Her image of the extraterrestrial visitors is that of an eye in the sky. What it sees, it devours. What a powerful image for cinema and the central theme of your film, representation. For decades, the portrayal of ethnic minorities in Hollywood was characterized by misrepresentation.
The history of “making a spectacle” and that of extinction are closely related. It’s black history. Now we are at a historical point where I can tell my stories, put my nightmares and black faces at the center of this story. I had to confront this dichotomy of spectacle and extinction from the perspective of the one creating spectacle for people.
In addition, your film develops its own beguiling aesthetics, which makes what we have often seen appear new to us: desert, sky, expanses that seem like empty canvases.
There is a connection between space and time, maybe also patience. Let’s say: space and pace. When we were making this film, we knew we had to enjoy the spectacle that unfolded before us. And that is usually relegated to the background. Here is my actual credo: We humans are simply the worst. We do the worst things and leave them lying around. In the animal kingdom, we are the worst.
This goes with the irony that always brings something light to your films, despite all the sharpness. Here it is the figure of the old cameraman who wants to capture the UFO with analogue film technology – and who would even die for a good shot.
This character, played by Michael Wincott, searches for the impossible in film. It has its issues, but it also represents the heart and soul of cinema. And why we go to great lengths to produce spectacle, even though we know it’s evil. i’m like that guy
Jordan Peele (43) won a screenplay Oscar with his debut film “Get Out”. This horror play about racist crimes by liberal whites was followed by the political thriller Us about social inequality. Now the filmmaker surprises with his innovative blockbuster “Nope”. afp
You would die to get an alien in front of your lens?
That remains to be seen, but I wanted to represent myself in some way in this film.
It seems like you entered American film history at just the right time. Hollywood has only been opening up to Afro-American artists and themes for a few years.
The timing was good. I could do what I did once I knew what I wanted to do myself. It probably wouldn’t have been possible ten years earlier. But I wasn’t finished there either.
For a long time, “black cinema” was limited to small budgets, which marginalized it. Has the American film industry finally overcome racism?
In any case, they don’t make it difficult for me to make films. I’m in an ideal place and my hope is to make films that prove that stories are stories, regardless of race, if done well. You can identify with a main character, no matter who it is. But as far as variety goes, I’m not satisfied yet.
We are at a turning point in film history. The streaming services also lure with a variety of offers. But the cinema only seems to attract crowds in blockbuster format. You have now proven what is possible with it, but how do you see the future?
Times are great because there are many opportunities to tell stories. I’m passionate about cinema. A few years ago people said it might not come back at all, now it’s said only as a blockbuster. I don’t think so: cinema will continue to be a viable industry. There’s just something about walking into a cinema and still deciding on a different film at the box office.
Didn’t anyone say to you when you were filming “Get Out”: Careful, now we’re messing with a key audience for horror films, namely white young men in the southern states?
I am convinced that the truth will reach those who seek it. If you don’t care about the truth and you don’t like my films, I don’t care. In fact, I feel like Trump voters don’t really know what to think of my film because it’s about liberal racism. Racists who love my films suddenly don’t know what to do anymore (laughs).
Interview: Daniel Kothenschulte