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Mary Harron speaks about Charles Manson with the detached empathy of a psychiatrist. In discussions with Matt Smith, who transforms wildly from the Prince Philip we know and love to hate on “The Crown” into the famed cult leader in “Charlie Says,” Harron’s new film, the director emphasized Manson’s tough upbringing. Manson was institutionalized from a young age, having “grown up in prison” from the age of 12. He was raped and beaten up due to the fact that he was “small and weedy.” Her insights about him are intensely precise, displaying an almost intimate knowledge of this larger than life figure’s innermost psyche.
“[Manson] learned to survive by manipulating others,” said Harron. “He was, in some ways, completely feral. He was animal in his instincts, because he’d grown up, for the vast majority of his life, in a place of danger. And so, like a wild animal, he was completely focused on, “Can I **** it? Can I kill it? ****, kill, or fear. Fear or flight. Are they prey, or are they predator?'”
Empathy - Harron - Films - Psychopath - Auteur
It’s this unsentimental empathy that makes Harron’s films so compelling, that make her the definitive psychopath auteur. She brought the same unique insights to Patrick Bateman when working on 1999’s “American Psycho,” her best-known film.
“With Patrick Bateman, the way in, with me and Christian [Bale], was, ‘This is someone who’s not a human being, and he really would like to be one, or at least to pretend to be one.’ He’s like somebody from Mars who’s trying to imitate human behavior. That gave Christian a way in,” she said. “When you’re trying to find your way into a character, both director and actor…it’s just finding the motives and mechanisms of their behavior, how they operate, and within a situation, how are they functioning.”
From watching her films, it’s...
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