Richard Stanley / The Espoo Ciné Interview, part III
by Lauri Löytökoski, August 28th, 2004, transcribed by Dejan Ognjanovic
Richard Stanley visited the Finnish film festival Espoo Ciné in August 2004, presenting all of his major works (two feature films, three documentaries, and one short film) during a three-day retrospective. I first met him during the second day of the retrospective, when he was about to screen The White Darkness and The Voice of the Moon. He was gracious enough to agree for this interview. In the third part, we go further into the story behind The Secret Glory.
BDD: When did you start collecting your research for The Secret Glory?
RS: It probably starts with Dario Argento and his 'Three Mothers'. Because of Dario I went to Montserat in Spain, to start checking out the Black Mother, the Black Madonna. But I really started with an incident in Southern France, when we were looking for the Arc of the Covenant, for Channel 4 TV, the program that never got made, we never found the Arc. As far as I'm concerned, it's in Etiopia. At the same time while we were there, we went to see Montsegur. I took my girlfriend to see the castle. That's where the last stand of the Cathars happened. And this BBC researcher, he was very nervous going up the hill. When he got to the top of the hill he didn't want to go to the castle. He said 'Just give me the car keyes', and he ran off. We went to smoke a joint on the battlements, and while we were there we had close encounter with this cloud, going very fast, around the mountain, and we realised we're on the highest point of the land - Montsegur was the last castle to fall because it was the highest - it was beseiged for over a year. It's a beautiful castle with white walls, and 'Mont-Segur' means 'A secure mountain'. But it started to suck in the lightning from the cloud, and we hid on the flank of the mountain and looked around us. It looked like fingers of fire coming down, from the cloud into the castle.
BDD: Fingers of a god...
RS: It looked like that. The cloud was swirling around it and light bursting out of it. And if the castle was drawing all the energy from the cloud, and who knows how much power is in a single lightning bolt, then the castle was forming something called 'The Faradey Shield', it would alter the magnetic field inside the keep so incredibly that it would surely affect your brainwaves. Also the lightning would stop your heart without even touching you. It doesn't need to touch you, it can strike next to you, and it affects your brain, your heart... And the girl that was with me had a sort of seizure. That's why I had to leave, cause she started screaming, and thrashing and freaking out. So I had to drag her out of the castle. But there were a lot of screaming voices I was hearing later, like pigs and sheep screaming down the mountain, and the smell was strange too. And when we were going down the mountain, suddenly there were fireflies, thousands of green fireflies. A lot of crazy things happened. At the inn, sashes trashed against the windows, I had to grab the shutters to stop them.
The next day, I traumatized and freaked out. I mean, I was reduced to a state of religious terror. I threw away all the metal of my body, cause I wanted to earth myself. I threw my money away, I threw my boots away, anything metal. In a sort of a state of terror the next morning I said to the old landlady, who was about ninety, what had happened the night before. She said, "Oh yeah, you're staying at Otto's room." And I said, "Who's Otto?" And she went that Otto was the German chappy, who was here in the 1930's. He was a bit crazy and thought that [Montsegur] was the castle of the Holy Grail.
And I thought, that figures. Whatever was going on up there made no kind of sense at all, but it was like inside out. Right from the beginning I had the sensation that Otto was onto something.
BDD: Are you preparing a final cut?
RS: Not yet. The [festival] program said it's got Simon Boswell's music, and the one we're playing here still hasn't. It's got temp track from Jerry Goldsmith, from Omen 3, but Boswell's track is kind of an imitation of Goldsmith's track. But it's never gonna be a full-throttle as with a full orchestra. We need also to complete the work, cause there's still wrinkles in the skin, I don't believe I got it right yet. We're getting there, but I don't believe we're getting the order of the events correct. At some points I even start suspecting that even Otto might not be dead, that they got the wrong body. We got the SS word for it, and we got the grave, but it's not necessarily a good thing to trust the SS. So, I'm having my suspicions about the ending of the The Secret Glory, and to what extent we've been misled. Also, I'm not sure whether Otto was a good man or a bad man, that bugs the hell out of me.
BDD: How will the research for The Secret Glory affect your next projects with similar subject matter?
RS: I've always wanted to make a feature film out of it, but I don't think it would ever happen.
BDD: It would be your English Patient.
RS: English Patient is based on a similar story. It's also based on a true story. I thought that if they can make a big chocolate box out of it, and get all the Oscars for it, then the Otto Rahn story is much more twisted. It involves the occupied France, and the stone itself, the heavy element, like enriched Uranium. It's at the beginning of the nuclear power, and it's so disturbing to have such a thing in their hands. It would make a fine movie. And I think that Nazis just lend themselves to a horror movie. I've never really seen a horror film with Nazis that's come anywhere close to scaring me the way they scare me in real life. Like, the SS order castle, it's fucking terrifying. I would like to see something that would scare me the way The Shining scared me, which is much more terrifying than anything I've seen so far on the subject. But it would be expensive, with the uniforms and the period, but it's such a fascinating material.
BDD: Did you find out why the Nazis went to the North Pole?
RS: No, not yet. But I have my suspicions. I think it has to do with the electro-magnetic fields. For a lot of things you have to go far north. Americans have their bases there. And it's not because they like the scenery, it's because they want to be close to the magnetic pole. What the Americans are doing is bouncing electromagnetic waves off the ione sphere and back through the earth to create a kind of imaging system, like ultrasound. You can see a baby inside the womb with US, so maybe they want to scan the entire planet with US, see people inside the rooms, or underground bunkers, rather than use light or spy satellites. So I suspect that Nazis had practical things to do there with radar, which is why it's still classified.
BDD: Do you foresee The Secret Glory and The White Darkness on DVD one day?
RS: The White Darkness is not long enough for a feature, maybe as an extra.
BDD: Why not a double feature?
RS: I want to make a proper DVD out of The Secret Glory. That's the real work. On the DVD you could have everything: the documents, about the holocaust, the statements...
BDD: Do you believe in spirit and afterlife, and what kind of afterlife?
RS: I kind of do believe in the afterlife, but it's kind of complicated, cause this [life] might be it. For all I know, maybe we're already dead. I tend to think that things are eternal and can't be destroyed. There's definitely spirits. There's no doubt that, whatever they are, something is going on another channel. I often think that there are multiple channels parallel to each other. Maybe they are other versions of this world as well. Because you can almost feel that sometimes things happen differently. I'm convinced that in some versions I was killed in Afghanistan and never made any movies, never became a film director. Cause it makes sense that I didn't make it through some of those things. And all the stuff that happened afterwards happened in this version, which is the unlikely one. If you were a teenager dying in a place like that, you could imagine yourself becoming a film director, meeting famous actresses and stuff... But it's too fantastical to be likely. I think that there may be a lot of different places out there. I think that some things come pushing through at this world, I don't know what these things are and whether you can call them spirits or invaders from another dimension, aliens from somewhere else... Things are so alien, so inhuman, we can't identify them. Words kind of fail one when one tries to describe them. The unknowable and the unknown defeat even the thought. We can't imagine what a 4th dimensional object would look like. I do believe there's something else, but only in the vaguest terms.
Continued in part IV