|Interview conducted by Stefan Blitz|
Despite Frankenstein’s Army being his first film as a feature director, Richard Raaphorst is a consummate filmmaker, racking up credits for the past two decades as an actor, a writer, a producer, in special effects, props, storyboards, and as a conceptual artist.
As a result, the CGI-free monster fest is truly a singular vision and comparisons to other unique visual auteurs such as Terry Gilliam, Tim Burton or Guillermo del Toro is completely deserving. I had the opportunity to chat with Richard Raaphorst about the film, his inspirations and his future projects.
At a certain point, I had two stories in my mind and I felt incredibly passionate about them both. I don’t know how it happened, but I suddenly saw a scene playing in my imagination. I saw Herbert West from Re-Animator as Victor from Frankenstein creating a monster. At the moment the monster came to life, I saw Nazis entering the lab to find Victor with the menacing monster in the background.
Then I saw the title, Army of Frankenstein right then, but later I changed it to Frankenstein’s Army.
It didn’t come as a surprise to learn that much of your professional career has been spent on the visual side of the film industry. Going into Frankenstein’s Army, how do you juggle both the artistic side with having to also focus on the storytelling?
That’s a good question. For me, storytelling or directing is the opposite of designing.
Designing is very solitary. I become like a monk and isolate myself entirely to get into the hyper-focused state I need for drawing. Directing and storytelling is the other side of the spectrum, where I must be very social and be the spider in the web of many influences. Storytelling is controlled by the left side of the brain, while designing is controlled by the right one.
It’s like having a double life, where I draw during the day and tell stories during the night.
There’s a found footage element to the film. Was that part of the script or a creative decision during pre-production?
I choose found footage because wanted the film to feel damaged, mechanical and physical. I wanted the mood to fit the ‘biomichanical’ concept, so I stitched the found footage together just like the Frankenstein monster.
Despite having directed shorts, what unexpected challenges did you face helming your first feature?
The biggest challenge was to keep the CGI to a minimum. This requires long, carefully choreographed takes, but I think it paid off. This would have been much easier if this were a short film, but I was obsessed with using as many practical effects as possible.
Were there any specific films or filmmakers that you referenced for Frankenstein’s Army?
Although I’m a real film junkie, my influences are not other movies or filmmakers. I’m influenced by music and textures. The textures must be from real life. I don’t mean Google images but real textures from factories, rusted metal, construction work, anything physical.
On the music front, I prefer soundtracks, which invite you to explore.
Imagine a painting of a landscape without a character in it anywhere. It’s much more inviting then when you place a figure in it. As soon as a human figure is there, the whole thing changes, even when it’s a tiny little silhouette. The viewer can only experience the landscape through the figure’s eyes. But if you remove the figure, the landscape remains and the viewer can participate . This is how instrumental music works with me. When I listen, I see images and scenes. This is also why I did not have a protagonist in the movie. The audience become the the participant.
At this point I’m totally in love with the track “Fade Out-The End” by Carter Burwell from the motion picture Barton Fink.
What do you have coming up?
I have several projects in the making, but secretly I feel the need to withdraw myself a bit and maybe paint for a while. Let’s see what kind of energy I have floating around in the coming year.
What are you currently geeking out over?
I love Anime at the moment and Manga. Im very intruiged by the Japanese Manga Death Note.
I’m a huge fan of Brian Eno. I think of all composrs and musicians, he is the best. I’m a big fan of David Cronenberg and the Monty Python tv series….I cant get enough of them.
I also like the Big Fat Baron from Dune. He is inspiring me BIG time and I’m playing around with the idea of him having a rebirth in a Nazi costume.