In a Q&A following the world premiere of the amazing new horror film menWriter and Director Alex Garland (destruction, Ex Machina) caused a bit of a social media sensation when he said he was inspired by the anime series attack on Titan, which he was still looking at. The post-apocalyptic sci-fi horror series had a major impact on the anime industry, but no one expected that the creator of such uniquely American live-action films would credit the show as an influence on his work. After the film premiered, Polygon spoke to Garland about how he got into watching attack on Titan and what it means to him.
“I saw the movie with my daughter, who started me off by saying, ‘Dad, you should really see this,'” Garland tells us. “I’m just blown away by this show. It’s so complex on so many levels, but with the titans themselves it’s done something really interesting – taking human forms and making minor changes that push things to the brink of the ridiculous, but it’s doing it with real guts and confidence.
“So it’s floating in that weird space between something absurd and something really scary. I was just very, very impressed. And I thought, on some level, I’m too – maybe too lazy. I don’t know what the right word is. But I’m just not that good and I have to get better. So it prompted me to investigate again men and reconsider. That’s the beauty of other people’s good work – it lifts everyone up a bit, you know?”
Garland is quick to point out that there is no specific image or idea men that sounds like it Attack on Titan – He says he started working on the script about 15 years ago and has been constantly rewriting and revising it ever since. The film revolves around a woman named Harper (Jessie Buckley) who takes a trip into the English countryside to escape recent trauma and encounters a series of men who all want something from her, all with the same face and all ready to attack them out of frustration when they don’t get what they want. Graphic male nudity plays an unsettling role in the film, but Garland says anime’s inspirations weren’t nearly as specific.
“The truth is that every time you see something really good, it encourages you to just try harder, think harder, and do better,” he says. “What attack on Titan did, it kind of gave me a jolt. And when you get a jolt, you have an opportunity to step out of what you’ve been working on and what you’ve been thinking about and kind of clear your head and start over and not think What was my original idea? but What goes with the movie?”
Garland is a little concerned that people might overstate the influence of the anime series on his work: “It would be wrong to pay too much attention to it,” he says. “Because for me, a film is a really fluid thing that takes in all kinds of things from all kinds of places – and especially people.”
With that in mind, he dodges any specific question as to where he was writing or shooting the film when he got his inspiration. “There is attack on Titan-like changes that kept occurring during the shoot or during the editing process,” he says. “Or it could be to do with playing the piano, using a poem or whatever. It’s just that the whole film is in a kind of constant flux, in part because it’s the product of a group of people working together and playing a part in a conversation. All I’m really saying is that at one point, one of the voices that came up and contributed to a cause was attack on Titan.”
He says that ultimately he was so impressed by the anime series that it dissuaded him from any complacency that might have crept into his filmmaking. “You know, it’s difficult — when you see other people’s stuff and it’s really good, you have two choices,” he says. “One should be intimidated by it and think Should I do this at all? And the other thing is to think No, I have to run faster. And I tried to react to that by running faster.”
men opens in cinemas on May 20, 2022.