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.