Andres Muschietti – Mama

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

From making commercials at his production company in Spain, Argentinean filmmaker Andres Muschietti has found his way to Hollywood for his first feature film of his career. In “Mama,” a psychological thriller based on a short film he made in 2008, Muschietti tells the story of Annabel and Lucas (Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a couple who decide to raise two young girls found living in the woods alone. Once home, Annabel and Lucas discover a supernatural entity may have come along with them.

How did you get the opportunity to turn your 2008 short film into a feature?

We showed the short film at a film festival in Europe and it got the attention of some people and one thing led to another. We were told Guillermo del Toro saw the short film. He called us and said we need to make the picture.

Del Toro had done his own ghost story with “The Devil’s Backbone” in 2001. Did he give you any advice on this type of storytelling?

Very much, but he is also a guy that wants you to trust your instinct. But he never tried to push any ideas or reference something from his films he thought I should mimic.

Are you a strong believer in ghosts and the supernatural?

I don’t believe I’m a sensitive person in that area. I know there are people out there that can feel certain things. They’re more open than me to those frequencies. But I do believe. What would be more accurate to say is that I’m scared of them. I don’t have proof, but I’m scared of the possibility.

What do you consider the theme of this film?

I was fascinated by the idea of imprint in this film more than anything. The idea that a baby can look up to someone who is not their mother just as long as she nurtures them was very compelling to me. For these girls, there is something that is not of this world that has imprinted them.

What kind of direction did you have to give your two young actresses to play these sort of feral characters?

These girls are very sensitive and understood very well. I didn’t have to do much talking. We found the tone of these characters in the rehearsals.  Megan [Charpentier] was an actress who had done movies before. My relationship as a director was one like you would have with a grown actor. We would talk about motivation, arch, and character. As for the little girl (Isabelle Nélisse), she was completely instinctive. She had this raw energy that was completely hyper, but at the time of her performance she would channel all her energy into her character.

Mama

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Directed by: Andreś Muschietti (debut)
Written by: Neil Cross, Andreś Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti (debut)

There’s an interesting dichotomy at work in the career of Guillermo del Toro. When it comes to directing, he’s known for his dark flights of fancy, plunging his films into twisted worlds haunted by fantastical, meticulously-crafted heroes and villains filled with pathos and often blurry lines between good and evil. As a producer, however, del Toro often lends his name to horror projects that begin with promise of del Toro-esque quality and end up as routine scary movie snores. The latest film presented by del Toro, “Mama,” unfortunately continues that trend.

“Mama” stars two-time Academy Award-nominee Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) as punk rock girl Annabel who, along with her boyfriend Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), ends up taking care of Lucas’ young nieces after they’re found in a nearly feral state prowling around a remote cabin. The girls have been living seemingly on their own for five years after their father Jeffrey (also Coster-Waldau, for some reason) murdered their mother and fled with his daughters in tow. As Jeffrey prepares to pull the trigger on his oldest daughter, a mysterious specter snatches him away to his implied death and takes her place as the girls’ guardian, know to them as Mama.

“Mama” arrives with an interesting premise – feral children with a seemingly otherworldly caretaker readjusting to normal society – but ends up disappointing early on. First-time director Andreś Muschietti tips his hand too soon by revealing Mama’s supernatural status in the first act.

Muscheitti, who also shares a screenwriting credit, deflates any psychological tension the situation might naturally create (is Mama a figment of the girls’ imagination? Is one of them actually Mama?) and instead turns the rest of film into an hour of the audience waiting for everyone on screen to discover this malevolent ghost we’ve already seen in action. The final act of the film wallows in a few half-prophetic dream sequences before limping to a conclusion that throws plot points out the window to eke out an ending indifferent to the rest of the film.

On another note, the sheer ferocity of Mama is puzzling. She’s introduced saving a young girl from being murdered by her father, for which her savage behavior is wholly appropriate. When she ends up putting well-meaning people into comas for investigating why moths are crawling out of a moldy portal to another dimension that’s randomly appeared in a hallway, well…not so appropriate.