nobody movie_Questions and Answers: Kristen Stewart on Body Horror, Cronenberg and Cannes

CANNES, France (AP) — In David Cronenberg’s “Crimes of the Future,” in which an artist played by Viggo Mortensen has his organs and tumors harvested during performance art excavations, Kristen Stewart plays a shy bureaucrat who quickly adapts developed into a passionate follower.

In Cronenberg’s film, an entry into the Cannes Film Festival, which hits theaters June 3, Stewart’s character, breathless with what she’s seen, morphs into a fan and maybe even an artist.

It’s a literally heartbreaking film filled with metaphorical meanings about the art making that Stewart feels deeply connected to. It’s also fitting that the film brought Stewart back to Cannes, a prime platform for Stewart’s own transformations over the past decade.

“There’s a certain commitment here to what feels like radical art that’s so unabashed and bold and so arrogant in a beautiful way,” says Stewart from a rooftop terrace overlooking Cannes’ Croisette. “No one needs to procrastinate and say, ‘Well, I guess we’re not saving lives.’ It’s like, “Yeah, that’s it! Art actually saves lives.’”

In an interview, Stewart reflected on how the themes of Crimes of the Future encapsulate and interlock with her own artistic journey.

AP: The attitude toward “radical” film that you describe certainly applies to Crimes of the Future, but Cronenberg has had trouble getting funding for films. Do you ever feel frustrated with how dissimilar Hollywood is to Cannes?

STEWART: Yes, it’s an industry. It depends on how much money you make. We call it the movie business over in Los Angeles. I like that because I want everyone to see our stuff, but it’s the perspective. If you don’t focus on it, it doesn’t affect you. But, oh, I’m so upset about this. (laughs)

AP: You do?

STEWART: Yes, but I also recognize that it’s expansive. That’s a cool thing. There is no way around this in a capitalist society. It’s nice to actually admit how obsessed you are about something instead of having to pretend it’s not such a big deal. And you feel like every interview you give is under the guise of a conversation but you put the release date and the studio listens to every word you say and they say, ‘Don’t you say it this word. That’s triggering.” It’s like, what?

AP: Did you see your character in Crimes of the Future as a fan? how did you connect with her

STEWART: One of the things the film asks is who gets to call art “art” or not? What we are doing now could be art for someone. But there are certain people who get so mad about people that they are forced to bring their inner lives out and there is a thing about jealousy that drives people crazy. It’s a beautiful thing to dig up yourself and show it to the world. Not everyone does it and not everyone is able to do it. But it’s definitely something people tend to do. It was fun playing someone who is so downtrodden and locked in themselves and wants to do a good job. She believes in the myth. She believes in government. She believes in all those things we all make up. (Stewart waves her arms around.) We made it all up! When she sees someone doing something different, her heart starts pounding out of her chest. Then there is this desire to have a vicarious experience. I thought it was cool playing someone who is fully awake.

AP: Was there a version of what happened to her that happened once for you?

STEWART: I used to think, “Your acting is just a really good liar.” I think I was turning 13 and I realized that certain experiences made me feel so moved and attracted to certain people. I would leave with memories that took place in scenes and I felt like they were my own. You were so personal. I didn’t really know where I stopped and where it all began. I thought, “Oh, I’m an artist.” Then I started to become the opposite. I was always very embarrassed. I would say if you can walk and talk, you can act. I still think so. It’s just a willingness to go there. But I absolutely had a moment. It was like a religious experience. They take theology from that Word and it’s pretty much interchangeable with faith. I began to believe. And it really, really changed my life.

AP: The film’s central metaphor is about pulling art out of itself, sometimes painful, often beautiful, even if grotesque. Do you identify with this idea?

Stewart: Definitely. In hindsight, I didn’t understand that Saul Tenser (Mortensen) is David. I think David will outlive us all and do a lot more films. But there is a kind of last breath that an artist can feel even at 15 years old. Is this the last thing I can do? Can I still do something? Anything come out? When Viggo chops up those organs, I’m like, “David, you’ll just never stop.” Obviously you’re giving yourself, you feel like you’re digging up those chunks to present as an offering. But you get so much back. It’s so mutual.

AP: You never feel like you ever get too much of yourself?

STEWART: No, pain is the most cathartic pleasure. That thing that you have to cut into each other to feel — I would do anything, really. In the moments when I’ve had the worst moments in my personal life, all the moments when I’ve been in full turmoil, I look back on it with bright eyes. I’m like, “Wow, I’ve been on real body drugs.” There’s a euphoria in the pain, so it’s nice to share. It’s really horrible to sit alone in pain.

AP: At the festival’s press conference, Cronenberg spoke of the potential repeal of abortion rights for women as “the real body horror.” Do you agree?

STEWART: We think about bodies in terms of legislation almost exclusively about abortion and gender. Pretty much everything revolves around physicality. That’s hard to put into words because it’s probably not the right format to start screaming right here on this balcony. Maybe that’s totally naïve and like America, I really didn’t think the ball would crash down the hill so hard and so fast. Everything they advanced will be dismantled. The acceleration is so overwhelming it’s hard to fathom. It’s (expletive) and terrifying and scary. If I had grown up somewhere else, I might feel differently. I’m not trying to tell anyone else they’re wrong. All of this is so stupid and so unnecessary.

AP: You are preparing to direct your first feature film. How are you?

STEWART: I’ve been working on this project for five years. I didn’t want to jump with the gun. It didn’t want to be done yet. It’s based on a memoir and the beauty of the memoir is that in a way it feels like a true memory that has an emotional intelligence and chronology – it’s called “Chronology of Water”. It’s really about a flood of memories that don’t seem to be connected by anything clear, but always something emotional. It’s really difficult visually. I also didn’t want to use a more formal structure. It wouldn’t be the same story. It’s the most physical text I’ve ever read. The way she talks about having a body, I need to see that in a movie. It’s like (Celine Sciamma’s) Water Lilies and (Lynne Ramsay’s) Morvern Callar. My favorite thing is always how artists find their voices, because it kind of screams at you to find yours. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, you write your own story.

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Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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For more information on the Cannes Film Festival visit: https://apnews.com/hub/cannes-film-festival

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