In director Michael Pearce’s debut film Beast, writes Christina Newland, “romance and brutal murder seem to come hand in hand. The psychological thriller is a compelling and twisted look into the maybe-complicit, maybe-manipulative relationship between Moll (Jessie Buckley) and the eccentric Pascal (Johnny Flynn), who meet under unusual circumstances and begin to fall for each other.
“A smattering of local disappearances begin to raise eyebrows, and Moll’s stuffy family is not impressed by her strange new boyfriend,” Newland continues. “Set against the picturesque but isolated greenery of the isle of Jersey, and based on a real series of sex murders that took place there in the 1960s, Beast is both a windswept love story gone awry and a darkly ambiguous look into psychopathy. To read the full article, click here.
“A lot of fairy tales end with the chivalrous prince saving the damsel in distress,” Pearce tells Jamie Dunn. “We thought maybe we could start the movie there and we’ll give it more of an ambiguous slant. You don’t know initially if Pascal is a good guy or not, and you keep hold of that feeling.” To read the full interview, click here.
“So whilst the film flirts with several genres—thriller, suspense, love story, psychological horror, family melodrama, and whilst it is a bit of all those things, it’s ultimately a dark and dramatic fairytale for grown-ups. It’s the story of a woman who faces many monsters—those within her family, those out in the wild, and those lying dormant within her.”
“It was very important for me that the mystery surrounding Pascal is matched by our curiosity surrounding Moll’s psychological state,” Pearce says. “Is she a woman courageously standing beside an innocent man? Is she someone who discovered humanity where others couldn’t? Is she blinded by love and unknowingly in physical danger? Or is there a more sinister dimension to her—is she taking revenge on the people that oppressed her? Could she also be a beast?”
Pearce tells Stephanie Watts, “I wanted the film to have a relationship with different genres, for it to be partly a kind of family melodrama, partly a love story, partly a psychological thriller, even going into psychological horror in some places. But I think ultimately, it’s a kind of character study.
“It’s not an investigation into a crime, it’s an investigation into a character, and we’re just using those different genre techniques to access that character in different ways. I talked a lot with my heads of department about how the film should feel hyper subjective. Moll is in every single scene in the film, we’re seeing everything from her perspective, so the sound design, the lighting, the music, the camerawork, the art direction, they’re all used to root us in her point of view.” To read the full article, click here.
“I really excavate the characters and try to reveal their layers,” Pearce continues in his interview with Newland.
“Inevitably, as they get a life of their own and become more interesting, they go on a journey that’s more than the story I’ve laid out. So, frustratingly, they go in a different direction. I found that mid-way through writing. Traditionally in these films you have procedure. Someone finding the bloody knife hidden in the back garden. And this was not about that—it’s an investigation into a character.
“Through the movie, I really liked the idea that the audience would be presented with progressively more ways to interpret the film.” To read the full interview, click here.
“The film is strictly told from Moll’s point-of-view and while it invites the audience to empathize with her it also destabilizes their identification,” Pearce explains. “I love cinema that creates a complex relationship between character and the audience. With Beast, I never wanted to let the audience’s sympathies become settled. Moll is much more anti-heroine than damsel-in-distress.”
“You could say that everyone in the film is somewhere on the psychopathic spectrum,” Pearce admits in an interview with Thomas Adam Curry.
“I find it hard to think about heroes and villains, the complexity of who we are isn’t contained in those two figures. Maybe they do exist, I’m just not interested in exploring them as characters. My general rule of thumb is that if you don’t empathize with your character, you haven’t worked hard enough to understand them, but equally if you don’t see the flaws in the character you haven’t worked hard enough to uncover them.
“With all of the characters, Moll included, who’s effectively our protagonist for most of the movie, I want you to connect with them, but for your relationship to become more complicated as the film wears on. It’s the same with Pascal, I want us to be drawn to him and to be supportive of their love story but not to make him Prince Charming.” To read the full interview, click here.
“I want you to constantly question, ‘What happens if this is the wrong guy?'” Pearce continues.
“There’s question marks hanging over all the characters. There’s no real investigation in the film, it’s not a procedural, we’re more interested in the tensions within and between each character. It’s about questioning our allegiance to them. It’s more of an emotional thriller than anything else.” To read the full interview, click here.