Luz is a subtly powerful movie. At its core, it is a story about a demon determined to find the woman he loves. The movie never strays from its central story, but the path it takes to reach its conclusion is a unique, visceral, and frightening journey. Writer and director Tilman Singer took some time to speak with AiPT! about his captivating movie.
AiPT!: There’s a lot that goes on in Luz. How would you describe it?
I like to call it a slow burning, sensuous, supernatural thriller where there’s a woman being followed by a demon that’s in love with her. I think that’s a good short description of it.
AiPT!: I read that David Cronenberg is one of your influences?
Sure. I mean, of course he is. He’s one of the many, but he’s definitely a big one, yeah.
AiPT!: The bathroom scene with Nora and Dr. Rossini really reminded me of Cronenberg. What other influences did you have?Way too many to count. It would be a little bit unfair to just say … I cannot even say this influenced me to do that movie, right? But some just hard facts, for example, (in one scene), we just basically took the beginning of Suspiria and didn’t even write our own shot list, because they did it so well, and I loved the movie so much that I just figured let’s just do exactly like they did it. In his expressionistic way, Dario Argento was definitely an influence on me in the way he works with cameras and sound.
You see references also that Luz very much looks like Winona Ryder in Night on Earth. Of course, she’s a cab driver. At some point, Dario, my co-producer and production designer, he went through a lot of different versions of how Luz could look and what she could dress, but nothing was really hitting to what we had in our mind, and at some point, he just asked me, “Shouldn’t we just go full Winona Ryder and dress her exactly like her?” I was really happy to do that, because I really like stealing and I really like making it obvious in a way, at least for the few people that know the reference, to see it when they see Luz, yeah.
AiPT!: Yeah, that’s funny. I caught that vibe actually when I was watching it. Kind of along those lines, Luz kind of reminds me of a music video. The way the title card comes up, it’s kind of like MTV was back in the day. Then Nora in the beginning, she has jerky, comical movements, and there’s a lot of scenes where there’s little dialog, and the music and the sound really takes the forefront. Was the music video aesthetic intentional?
I mean, yeah, of course. I wasn’t thinking music video, but yeah, that the film is very music heavy was a kind of hidden story, or a very simple, superficial story and a very much hidden backstory.
I worked with the same composer, which is a very longtime friend of mine, Simon Waskow. When I write the script, I leave him some space for his music. For example, the opening shot that is very, very long and nothing happens, I told him she’s (Luz) just going to enter and drink a soda and then yell at the guy. It’s going to take a few minutes, but you, I told that to my composer, you going to do the whole narration, the whole tone or introduction of the movie, because I know he’s awesome and I know he will do a good job, so I kind of like rely on this. Sometimes we’re a little bit lazy. (Laughs)
AiPT!: The beginning that you mentioned, and many scenes in Luz that are long shots, but it’s a very intimate movie. The audience feels like they are a part of it. How did you manage to do that?
Well, I write really freely. I spend a lot of time figuring out the overall structure and what needs to happen. A lot of those decisions are really subconscious decisions, where I really don’t really know where they came from or what they mean, or maybe where I picked up on them in different movies. I think because of that, because that automatically makes it an intimate story for me, because I told it from a place of my mind that I’m not even really have figured out myself, I think that’s how you got a more intimate feeling about the whole thing.
If your using really long shots, then the eyes of the audience, they’re also going to start wandering around and trying to scan the whole scenery. That makes it harder for production design, because everything has to look…whatever word you want to describe it: good, real, authentic, whatever. Everything should be interesting, because everything’s part of it, because when you have long shots like that, the audience can really look around.
But what it also does, it kind of lulls you in, and that was one of my goals to put the audience itself a little bit under hypnosis, like in trance, same way the protagonist is going through. I figured, I hope it works, but I figured this would happen if we would disorient the people a lot. The constant change of perspective, where you really have to figure out, “Who’s hearing this right now? Is that the perspective of Luz. It it the perspective of the police?” combined with really long, steady shots, that gets you a little bit of time to reflect on what you just saw, but also gives you new and confusing information to deal with. I think that creates a little bit of a state of hypnosis combined with a really personal story that I haven’t even figured out where it came from. I think that makes that feeling, yeah.
AiPT!: I’m not going to lie. I’m not very familiar with the Bible but there’s a prayer that’s repeated throughout Luz that I’m pretty sure is not in there. How did you come up with it?(Laughs) There’s really no religion in my family. I’m the opposite of my wife’s family. She’s Colombian. They’re really Catholic. I knew I needed some kind of cause, some kind of personal cause that’s been said in the movie to summon the demon, right?
I remembered that when I was in school, I had religion as a class once a week, and it could be Protestant, it could be Catholic. Yeah, nowadays also it’s like philosophy, [Laughs], which is weird that this is the third one.
When I was a child, I had to go to those classes once a week. We just sat in a church and had to repeat, it felt like we only repeated the Our Father’s over and over again. Of course, what children do is then make up their own rhymes to entertain themselves while sitting there and repeating. I think we did way worse back then. I don’t really remember what we said, but I think we said way more horrific things than what my Columbian wife actually came up with. She translated what I’d written in English for her into Spanish, so all the Spanish passages were written by her or translated by her, but I had her come up with the whole prayer herself. That’s her work.
AiPT!: Nice way to diffuse the blame.
(Laughs) Yeah, if somebody comes and feels like I get them wrong, I can just point to my wife, Silvia, and say, “It’s her fault.”
AiPT!: Screen Media recently purchased the North American rights to Luz and it is set for an early 2019 release. Luz is going to be taking up a lot of your time in the near future. What plans do you have afterwards?
Well, I’m also working on my next story, because I cannot not work on the next thing, ever since seven years I’m constantly working on the next thing. I really need it. Actually this festival travel is super nice, but it keeps me from continuing to write, which makes me a little bit nervous actually. When I’m done with it in mid-October, I’m going to be getting back into it. I’m writing a treatment. It’s going to be, it’s too early to tell you, really what it’s going to be about, but it’s going to be a little bit more of a straightforward story, not that scary. It’s probably going to be more like of a family drama, where it’s still supernatural elements, a supernatural thriller if you like, little bit of detective story actually, but I’m still very much figuring it out. It’s a little bit early to tell, but yeah, I’m working on my next script.