Interview with Mark Weistra (Director)
How did you come up with the idea of the film?
I fell in love with the magic of movies when I was 11-years-old. Ever since, it has been my dream to make a movie myself that will transport viewers into another world, experience the emotions that I want them to experience and express something personal about how I view life. But it has been very difficult to get the financing for projects. I also owned a video store for many years that I was able to sell before things like Netflix and VOD killed them. I vowed to use that money and finance my own feature film. I knew quite a few crew members that would help me for the love of making movies (and for free). I knew it would be a horror film (my favorite genre), about a young woman (played by Terence ― an actress that I knew and loved) and it would take place in the bar that my father-in-law owned, a fantastic location for a claustrophobic film. The last element was the choice of antagonist, the bad guy. Horror needs a strong antagonist, but it is very difficult to come up with something original. Then I saw a lecture on religion on YouTube by Christopher Hitchens where he talked about God, of the Old Testament specifically, as a selfish monster. And then I knew who my original antagonist would be and I had all the elements to write and then produce/direct my first feature film.
How easy or difficult is to make horror films in the Netherlands? How is the reaction of the public?
The reaction has been good to fantastic. But it was very hard to make a film with, at its core, a fantasy or fantastical element for a Calvinistic country like the Netherlands that has great difficulty accepting anything outside real-life in the Dutch language (outside comedy). I also teach filmmaking and often make the comment to Dutch students: “Imagine, for example, Star Wars in Dutch. Luuk ik ben je vader!” (Translation of: “Luke, I am your father). And everybody always starts to laugh, and not just because I am a terrible actor. It’s also due to our Protestant background and Calvinistic nature. And I had to use many tricks that I learned from other filmmakers on how to hopefully deal with this and make it work.
One of the most important ones was to start believable, as a sort of stalker film, and slowly change the tone to become more expressive and surreal. It seems that, for most people, the tricks work. But there are still Dutch people who dislike the last part of the film (the fantastical part) and disconnect with it . . . not due to lack of quality but due to not being able to go with it because their own Calvinism.
In the movie, at first, we think the caller is a stalker, then we realize it is a supernatural entity. What made you go for that approach instead of a serial killer or someone human?
The choice of this reveal and choice of antagonist is the element that makes the film more personal. It’s the theme. It’s hopefully the element that makes it more than just a film that goes ‘BOOO’ at the right moments. It’s my statement, fear and experience of life (and death) and the possible idea of a God. It’s about my nihilism and loneliness. And I would have lost that if I would have chosen an antagonist that was a human being.
The final leaves an open ending . . . for you, does Kristen die?
The ending was the hardest thing to write. I wanted something that didn’t give all the answers but, hopefully, also wasn’t frustrating. An ending that would make you think and come up with your own explanation. For me, the ending is that death, the big unending blackness, cannot be defeated and will always be out there, waiting, to swallow us all.
Who are your main influences when it comes to filmmaking?
Too many to mention! But just to name a few: Hitchcock, Melville, Kubrick, Spielberg, Polanski, Wilder, Scorsese, Raimi, Demme, Leone, Romero and Carpenter. But even a director like Guiseppe Colizzi, who directed the first film I saw in the cinema (with my father), All the Way Boys, with Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, was extremely influential.
As a fan of horror films, which are your must-see movies?
As much as I love many of them, The Shining, The Thing, etc., I’d rather use this opportunity to mention a few lesser known favorite horror/thriller titles: Who can Kill a Child?, Perfect Blue (anime), Next of Kin (Aus. ’82 version), A Tale of Two Sisters, Dead and Buried, Possession, Deep Red and Donnie Darko.
Many horror film fans are believers of the supernatural; do you believe in ghosts, specters and so on?
I don’t believe in anything that requires mere belief. I need proof. And none of these things have been proven. I will always keep an open mind but as Carl Sagan said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” What I personally fear most is death, mental illness, disease, suffering and the inhumanity/brutality that lies within us all ― things of that nature.
What does it mean to you that Trapped will reach a worldwide audience in its Eurochannel broadcast?
We made Trapped with a minimum crew and with minimum means, not knowing if anyone would ever see it (or even if we would be able to finish it). But we did, and the responses have been great and more then I could have dreamed. And to now have it reach beyond the borders of The Netherlands is, don’t want to sound cliché but a dream come true.
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