Interview: David Lowery, director of Ain't Them Bodies Saints
The outlaw romance starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara 'starts where Badlands stops'
American filmmaker David Lowery has created a haunting drama of love and redemption set in 1970s Texas. He speaks to Eddie Harrison about being inspired by cinema’s greatest directors including Robert Altman, Terence Malick and Claire Denis
David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is a slow-burner of a film, detailing the aftermath faced by outlaw couple Bob Muldoon (Casey Affleck) and Ruth Guthrie (Rooney Mara) who, pinned down by Texas police, decide to go out in a blaze of glory. Apprehended and separated, she waits patiently while he executes a jailbreak, but their reunion is threatened as the forces of the law intervene.
‘I started out by wanting to make an action movie, but my style is more slow and intense, so I gave that up,’ says writer/director Lowery. ‘What stuck with me was the idea of tackling outlaw mythology, something that dealt with aftermath and consequence, with what happens after they get caught. To me, these are the things that don’t get shown, it’s about the space between the words … Yes, there’s gunfights and suspense, but it’s not action.’
‘The film that I wanted the cast and crew to see before the film began shooting was Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs Miller, and There Will Be Blood was another. I loved the fact they used antique film equipment to create a movie that had a genuine, old-fashioned feel,’ says Lowery. ‘I was also very influenced by Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, the way it was photographed had a warmth that I wanted, a sense of life underground and in the shadows. Absolutely, we’re in the tradition of Badlands, if you shoot in Texas at magic hour, there’s a sense in which you’re digging your own grave by inviting comparisons to Malick. But our film starts where Badlands stops.’
‘When you’re on set, there’s so many things to worry about, so it’s fantastic to have a cast who bring their A-game. They give me 100%, so I only have to push them to 125. They came so prepared, Casey would work hard on how his character stood, how it would hold himself in a room full of people, it’s exciting to have that kind of talent onboard,’ says Lowery.
‘This film is in a similar mindset to Upstream Colour, casting a spell and creating an experience. People say Upstream Colour is a puzzle, but it’s actually quite narratively simple. There are no rules of narrative to follow, so you have to let go and use your natural intuition. These films are both complex and simple, but the way that they are told is intense and personal. Like Shane, it’s the minutiae of life that interests me.’
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints is on release from Fri 6 Sep.