Grimmfest: French Director Quarxx Discusses The Writing Process Behind His New Horror Flick ‘Pandemonium’

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Pandemonium (2023) © Film Seekers Limited.

Pandemonium (2023) © Film Seekers Limited.

As day two of Manchester’s annual horror film festival, Grimmfest got underway last weekend, festival organisers were pleased to welcome French director and writer, Quarxx along as one of this year’s honoured guests for a screening of his existential portmanteau film: Pandemonium.

Quarxx is a celebrated multimedia artist who uses the mediums of photography, painting, and film to capture his creative visions. His works have been showcased all over the world and are renowned for their unique aesthetic and macabre themes.

The Indiependent caught up with Quarxx to talk about the themes and inspirations behind the film and his approach to writing the story.

The Indiependent: Can you tell us a bit about the film and what viewers can expect from it?

Quarxx: “You can expect a wild ride. It’s a piece that deals with pain, grief, and loneliness. It’s a film that takes place in hell but it also has a touch of humour in it. It’s a story about Nathan who has died but it takes a long process to understand that he’s dead. He realises that from his past actions, he will have to face a door and this door is leading him to hell. His story will be about facing the pain of others and that is what hell is all about. It’s very Sartrean; Jean-Paul Sartre once said: ‘hell is the other’. This is a film exactly about that; it’s a Sartrean philosophy that you’re experiencing hell through the eyes of other people or you’re suffering through other people, not about yourself.”

What was the inspiration behind the making of this film?

“The inspiration comes from two different points. The first one was frustration because I was working on a film and a script. It was a huge project and it took me four years to write. At the end I was getting totally crazy because the production company was saying: ‘you shouldn’t do this and you shouldn’t do that’, and I don’t work like that. I had to take a break from that project and I wanted to return to the route of what inspired me to become an artist and filmmaker which was freedom—the freedom to tell my stories. That’s how I started on that film. Inspiration-wise it’s something that happened to me 25 years ago. I was surfing in Bali and I got caught in a current and nearly drowned. I lost consciousness and I woke up four days after that because I fell into a coma and woke up in a white room. I was alone in that room and when I woke up, I really thought I was dead. I was like ‘wow this is really weird because I’m dead but I can still have my feelings’. That was a very traumatic experience and those were the things that gave me the inspiration for that movie.”

The film incorporates different genres from thriller to dark comedy and horror, what are the challenges in balancing these in your writing?

“It’s not really a challenge because it was not planned like that. It’s the story that guides you into something and you really lose control. It’s not you that’s controlling the story. At some point after twenty, forty, fifty pages, it’s really the story that controls your handwriting and guides you to where it has to go. So I didn’t really think when I started that I had to have a mix of genres, nothing was planned really. I didn’t even really know where I was going when I was writing the film. It just happened like that because I think a script is also a reflection of your inner-self and who you are. As myself, I can be super dark but also a very funny guy and this is really like a reflection of my personality I think. So it goes very naturally.”

French horror and thriller films tend to be regarded as being very intense and dark such as Martyrs (2008) and Irreversible (2002), would you say there’s an expectation to match that tone?

“No, not at all. I really try to build my own style. I try not to be influenced too much by films that I love. You still are at the end that’s for sure but it’s not a conscious act. I don’t expect to reach a level of horrifying the audience. It’s really the story that dictates what I have to write and it’s not planned. Nothing is really planned when I’m writing a script. It’s very automatic writing. I don’t make a canvas of the whole story, I just wander in a certain road and I see where that road is leading me at the end. But really nothing is planned this is how to keep a freshness and to do things that have not been seen before or something more original I think.”

What is it like to have your film screened at Grimmfest?

“It’s a very big pleasure for me. Everytime I come to England it’s really cool because I think that the English people are reacting really well to that kind of film. I think they’re way more open toward that genre than French people. So I’ve been to FrightFest and it was really a blast, now I’m at Grimmfest I’m so happy. England is really receptive to Pandemonium. They were also very receptive to my previous film: All the Gods in the Sky (2018), and it did really well in England so it’s very welcoming.”

What advice would you give to any aspiring writers who are hoping to get their films off the ground?

“I think that obsession is the key. Never let yourself be deceived by criticism or by the difficulty that you’re facing because you’re going to face some. And sometimes you’re asking yourself too many questions: ‘am I good, am I not good?’ But the key thing is always to continue, continue with whatever happens and obsession is really the key to success.”

Some answers edited for clarity

Words by Katie Heyes

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