Fluffy and merciless
In 1993, Spike Jones, then still a video director, filmed a domestic violence video for the single “All About Eve” by British band Marxman.
“For me it was a new experience, I haven’t done this before. In general, I just took off the members of the group riding in the elevator, ”recalls the director, whom EMPIRE meets on the eve of the premiere of his new film in Los Angeles. – It was a bad movie, and I did not shoot it for the money. I just had nothing to say on the topic. However, in those things that I am proud of, there was always something that affected me personally. ”
What Jones is proud of for sure is his last full-length, long-awaited (and long delayed) film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s bestseller Where Monsters Live, and the director is ready to talk about this book for hours. A thin picture book published in 1963 tells of a hooligan boy in wolf pajamas, Max. For his bad behavior, Max was ordered to sit in his room, from where he went in search of adventure and found himself in a gloomy forest – there he became the king of a gang of hairy monsters and ordered to arrange a “wild whine”.
Critics of “Monsters …” at first did not like it, but the book was so fond of children that only in the United States it sold over 10 million copies. In the early 70s, one of them reached Rockville, Maryland, where a single mother raised little Spike Jonze (then his name was more modest – Adam Spiegel).
“When I was four or five years old, my mother often read this book to me,” says Jones. – Even now, I clearly remember her intonation. And monsters too – they were like living. This world attracted. It seemed to me that Max is me. I adored the book, but when Maurice first proposed to me to transfer it to the screen, I could not figure out how to film such an essentially short poem. ”
Maurice Sendak does not consider himself a child writer. He believes that “Where Monsters Live” is not a book for those who splash happily in the sea of infancy, but for those who swam across the sea but have warm feelings for the past. In Jonze, Sendak saw a man who shared this – in the best sense of the word – children’s susceptibility, and in the 90s, a director of over twenty years old and a writer who was over sixty suddenly made friends. For Sendak, “Where the Monsters Live,” the book is very personal (in one interview, he called it “personal exorcism”), and he wanted Jones to transfer the tale to the big screen.
In 2003, after a year of moderate grunts, Sendak’s wish came true. Jones re-read the book during a divorce from Sofia Coppola, who was his wife for five years. One night, turning over the pages, Jones began to see: the monsters appeared before him the embodiment of the most powerful emotions that float to the surface of the child’s psyche and burst like bubbles until we grow up and drive these emotions away into the dark caves of the subconscious.
“In all my successful works, there was something personal – this also applies to“ Monsters … ”, Jones repeats. – When I undertook projects that did not affect me emotionally, nothing good came out. I feel that my other films are also personal, although the scripts were written by Charlie Kaufman. ”
Indeed, the adaptation of Jones turned out to be very personal: weaving his own childhood memories into a mean description of Sendak, he thereby expanded the boundaries of reality that frames the story. In the film, Max, like young Jones, is a child from an incomplete family.
“Of course, drawing such a parallel is easy,” the director continues. – It’s much more difficult to make sure that there is nothing left in the film that is alien to you … I used to think that “personal” means “overloaded”, and then I realized that my videos are not overloaded, albeit very personal. It’s the same with the film. ” “Monsters …” Jonze blends wonderfully with his past work. Here, as in his early paintings, there are moments full of vague dreams and dreams, captured, however, against a monstrously stupid background. Like the heroes of the Jonds-produced show “Eccentrics”, for example, monsters are happy to destroy everything around and throw unusual shells.
Like Jonze’s firstborn, “Being John Malkovich,” “Monsters …” is a dark and sad film. Project sponsored by Warner Bros. I didn’t want anything “gloomy and sad.” She wanted to get a bright children’s movie that would attract the viewer. And I got something completely different. Almost all children’s films remain faithful to the mythological story of the eternal hero, called to accomplish a feat, overcome all obstacles and return enriched with new experience and matured. “Monsters …” immediately turn away from the canon. Jonza’s film cannot boast of clear morality, simplicity of presentation, or an abundance of instructive phrases.
Monsters are expressed as children expressing the simplest emotions. They are agitated, lonely, angry and afraid, they constantly yell at each other, trying to put their feelings into words.