Trash Humpers - Harmony Korine interview
Director Harmony Korine talks to James Mottram about his latest film – and simulating sex with dustbins
As idiosyncratic as he is impish, director Harmony Korine may have long since shaken off the media tag of enfant terrible. But with a CV that includes such fiercely independent films as Gummo, Julien Donkey-Boy and Mister Lonely – the latter about a Michael Jackson impersonator who finds solace in a commune of other celebrity mimics – it’s clear Korine doesn’t do multiplex crowdpleasers. ‘I’m always slightly delusional at the beginning, because I always think each of my films will be very commercial,’ he laughs, when we meet in a dimly lit private member’s club in London’s Soho. ‘I honestly believe that.’
While the closest he ever came to this was his controversial breakthrough script for Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids, with its tabloid-baiting depiction of underage teen sex, his latest effort Trash Humpers is arguably his most out-there effort yet. The story of a group of elderly, wrinkled sociopaths from Korine’s hometown of Nashville, they spend their time – you guessed it – simulating sex with dustbins. Not that this stopped Korine believing he’d got a hit on his hands. ‘I remember saying I want to make the kind of movie I could imagine Miley Cyrus promoting and getting behind! Making this, the whole time I felt it would appeal to her sensibility.’
Perhaps understandably, you won’t find the Hannah Montana star banging the drum on Korine’s behalf. Like a fly-on-the-wall study of the family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on their day off, Trash Humpers is not exactly Disney fodder. ‘I don’t know if it’s a horror film, but I wanted to make something that was very disturbing,’ says Korine, who happily admits this story is really a series of vignettes. ‘It’s all just an accumulation of moments, and that’s very much the way it was made. We would walk around, sleep out at night under bridges and in the woods, and we would have cameras and just wake up in the morning and just film.’
Shot on grainy VHS tape, it’s the Trash Humpers (played by an unknown cast that includes Korine’s own wife Rachel) who make the film such an unsettling experience. ‘I wanted to be a bit confusing,’ says Korine, who also makes a cameo appearance in the film. ‘Are they old, are they young, are they masked, are they real, are they burn victims? They’re more shape-shifters or degenerate mystics. It’s a movie based on people who live in the shadows. Like people out there living in the woods. When I close my eyes and get to a place that’s unfiltered and truly frightening in a lot of ways, that’s what it looks like.’
I suggest to Korine that maybe, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hollywood will eventually come along and remake it. He starts to laugh at the idea. ‘Maybe they’d turn it into a video game. I’d be open to that!’ Even so, if the 37-year-old is the very antithesis to the mainstream, having recently penned a comedy he feels is more ‘movie-ish’, he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of working inside the system. ‘I could imagine writing a script I’d want to make with a studio,’ he notes. ‘It’s never good to limit yourself.’ Limits are something Harmony Korine just doesn’t understand.
Trash Humpers screens at the Glasgow Film Theatre on July 14 and 15.