Life’s a beach and then you die – that’s the basic premise of Old, the new film from movie-making trickster M Night Shyamalan.
Like many of his films that meld genres together, Old is a horror, comedy, parable for our world. After the year we’ve had, jetting off to a tropical beach sounds like paradise, but a group of tourists find it anything but as they begin to age rapidly, each half hour the equivalent of a year in their life.
Vicky Krieps plays a mother on a family holiday who watches her kids grow up in front of her eyes. The Luxembourgish actress is best known for her luminous, career-making performance in Phantom Thread, where she matched Daniel Day-Lewis scene after devastatingly subtle scene.
Speaking to The Big Issue Krieps is just as fiercely intelligent and wickedly playful as Alma in that film, as she contemplates the big issues brought up by Old: love, life and a lot of death.
The Big Issue: Without giving too much of the plot away, have you worked out what you’re able to say about the film when somebody asks what it’s about?
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Vicky Krieps: Like you, by coincidence? I would say because the movie works on different levels it’s actually quite easy. How we live in a society where we seem to always run after time and no one knows what we’re running for. The only thing you know when you come into this world is that we’re going to die, right? We could make peace with it, and ageing, and just enjoy life. But we don’t. We run away from it or we try to hide it, we put on makeup and do all these masquerades using up our precious time.
Does all the running away from death we do make us run towards it faster?
Exactly. I think the movie is trying to put us in this place of discomfort. What if it was fast? What if I told you it’s this evening? How would you react, how would you look on life? It seems like such an old romantic saying, that you should live like every day is the last. But if you take away the artifice, it’s actually very true. The movie is like an experiment, what would happen to people if I put them in this situation?
Do you think over the last year we’ve been living through a similar experiment, when time slowed down for a lot of people?
I always find it a funny question, do you think? I do sometimes think, I think. So I think what I think is… Yes and no. I keep talking to people who tell me they feel like they aged three years in the one year of lockdown. Did we really get older faster, out of the stress? Or did we pause for one year and didn’t check then once we checked we were older?
Is the experience of watching Old different after the experiment we’ve been through?
The scariest thing can be watching a heightened version of our society. And the lockdown was a heightened version. Suddenly we were able to see the constructions of everyday life, how dependent we are on certain things when they take them away. [M Night Shyamalan] uses his characters to portray such things as love, philosophy, greed, fear, vanity, then lets them clash on a beach in the situation of nearing death and losing your age. Which is like losing control over your life. This is why it’s so scary, like the lockdown. Although sometimes it was nothing. But nothing sometimes is the scariest. To sit in your kitchen can be very, very scary.
At least you got to fly to the Dominican Republic to make the film. That must have been a nice escape.
We were not really happy to be on a beach, because it was really tough.
Oh, come on!
The heat was unbearable and it was during lockdown so we had to wear the masks everywhere. Then we had thunderstorms and they destroyed the whole set. We had an earthquake. And then the cockroaches, I couldn’t believe, they’re huge! They were everywhere, in my bed. And I was laughing because, as you say, oh come on, you cannot complain on a tropical beach. But actually it made me laugh how small and how weak I am. It made it tense, and I think it being on edge was good for the movie.
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