Lynne Ramsey’s adaptation of the best-selling book 'We Need To Talk About Kevin' is a beautifully twisted and sublimely dark examination of the potential extremities of the human psyche. Tilda Swinton is magnificent as the mother trapped in her own solipsistic purgatory, beaten down on one side by her demonic son, Kevin, while on the other side her pleas and worries about the boy’s stability fall on the deaf ears of her docile husband, but ever doting father, Franklin, played with all the warmth of a jogging teddy bear by John C. Reilly.
The ambiguity affectively brought out at the heart of Kevin is whether his actions are purely motivated by self-centred manipulation or whether a twinkle of compassion lurks behind his gentler moods. Exquisitely shot with only a deserved amount of indulgence, Lynne Ramsey’s traumatic masterpiece is one of the year’s finest films. Dazed Digital sat down with the demon child (actually, the rather chatty and charming) Ezra Miller during London Film Festival to talk about the difficulties and fun of exploring his darker side.
Dazed Digital: You’ve played a few unhinged kids in other films.
Ezra Miller: I’ve played a couple of unhinged roles, but then again there are a lot of unhinged people in the world. More and more then world’s going crazy and dark.
DD: Sounds slightly pessimistic.
Ezra Miller: I’m just trying to do some true interpretations.
DD: Why do you think they go to you for these roles?
Ezra Miller: Oh no, I go to them, I pursue these unhinged characters, I wish to embody unhinged characters because it’s what I perceive in the world around me. I haven’t met a hinged person in so long.
DD: Do you think you have an aesthetic that fits these parts?
Ezra Miller: What, that I look evil or naturally unhinged? Yeah, maybe I just have some good psychosis bone structure. But I’ve met psychotic unhinged people of all appearances, I don’t think there’s a particular look.
DD: What you find fascinating about these characters?
Ezra Miller: I feel that every crazed story in the world can be played and mapped out within your own psychology, it’s one of the amazing things about human existence is that we’re strangely, through empathy, very aware, or we have at least the capacity and potential, to be aware of an emotional and psychological complex half way around the world that we’re completely disconnected to in every superficial way except for the one way which is that we’re all human beings and thus hidden under a whole lot of civil society is this basic animal understanding of one another.
DD: Did you do any research for the role of Kevin outside of the script?
Ezra Miller: I think the word research, it defines itself in a very particular way, in that you’ve got the prefix “re”, which implies that you’re searching again, which means that at some point or another, you’ve already found it. And I operate by that belief system as an actor but as an artist and as a human being in general; why would we do research? Why wouldn’t we just take that initial search? and trust the initial search.
DD: Is it strange watching yourself in these roles?
Ezra Miller: Always. Certainly it can be a traumatising experience. I’m starting to err on the side of caution when watching these films, just having gone through a few experiences where watching a film will just degrade my entire relationship with myself. It’s strange to essentially watch yourself making the choices that you remember making in order to personify the character.
DD: Is your concern that it’s frightening to see the similarity between you and a character?
Ezra Miller: That fright comes early on, I recognise the commonality between myself and the character as the first step from myself toward the character. As an actor, no matter how good you are or how much compelling research you do, in the end you’re beginning an ending with yourself. That’s scary, but I don’t think that inextricably ties you to characters, I find that coming to this realisation more and more I see the vast contrast between me and the characters I play, because everything is quintessentially borne of this similarity.
DD: Was it inspirational to play alongside Tilda Swinton then?
Ezra Miller: Yeah, amazingly. I have a feeling that in subliminal way that I’m not fully aware of yet, what I’ve learnt from Tilda will inform everything I do from here on out. She represents almost a new craft outside of acting, a craft within the art form of empathy. What we see her do time and time again is bring the possibility of a human understanding to a situation or a story or a character that before might have seemed unrecognisable or indecipherable or just completely unrelatable because of, maybe, the characters actions or the characters traits.
She has this immense energetic capacity to bring the reality of the human experience into those shells. And that grants us, as audience members, an opportunity to empathise further. That is what this art form has the potential to do at its best, at its optimal.
'We Need To Talk About Kevin' is out this Friday