Bloody Thoughts: Abel Ferrara on The Addiction

Filmmaker Magazine | 7/7/2019 | Scott Macaulay
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by Scott Macaulay

Appearing online for the first time, here is Scott Macaulay’s report on Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction, from our Winter, 1995 edition. It appears here in newly revised form.

Abel - Ferrara - Finger - Video - Monitor

“Look at this,” Abel Ferrara says, tracing his finger across the video monitor in his Manhattan office/editing room. On the screen: black-and-white images of blood-streaked, bullet-ridden Bosnian casualties. “This is the real thing.”

These images, and others of Nazi concentration camp victims from Ferrara’s new film The Addiction, pose a cinematic question that dates back at least to Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog. When faced with the visual representation of the extreme horrors of the 20th century, what does a filmmaker do with these images?

Ferrara - Horror - Film - Addiction - Ferrara

Well, if you’re Ferrara, you put them in a horror film. The Addiction, directed by Ferrara and scripted by Nicolas St. John, is Ferrara’s return to low-budget viscerality of his early works—Driller Killer and Ms. 45—while it also more explicitly extends the kind of searching moral dialogues that are at the heart of his more recent films. As in Bad Lieutenant, in which a corrupt Catholic cop’s last days played out like a medieval morality play, in this film too a genre’s subtexts are laid bare. Lily Taylor plays an NYU philosophy grad student-turned-bloodsucker enrolled in a Holocaust studies class ,and much of the film’s dialogue, quoting Heidegger. Husserl, Burroughs, and Sartre, provides an overt philosophical rationale for the themes long associated with the the vampire movie: questions of identity, one’s role in society, and one’s exploration of individual morality.

Indeed, thoughts flow from St. John’s script like karo syrup in a grindhouse gorefest. With Ken Kelsch’s evocative, chiaroscur0 cinematography, sudden eruptions of violence, and possessed performances by Lily Taylor and Christopher Walken, the film blends the grittiness of Night of the Living Dead with the poetic horror...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Filmmaker Magazine
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