[Ed. note: Significant spoilers ahead for Pearl.]
When Ti West is pearl hits its third act, there aren’t many surprises left – just a heavy sense of horror movie dread and inevitability. It’s partly because pearl is a prequel to West’s horror film X, and anyone who’s seen this film already knows where the title character (once again played by Mia Goth) ends up. At the same time, the film shows how ruthless and obsessive Pearl is, which plots her final moves well in advance.
But there’s one particularly unconventional surprise – a six-minute, one-shot monologue where she lays out the details of her own psychosis and how she feels about the giant hole inside her that has made her a killer. West keeps a fixed camera close to Goth’s face the entire time as she gropes around in the darkness of her own psyche, one emotion chasing another across her face as she tries to explain herself to someone who is not even there. It’s surprisingly effective acting and filmmaking that’s both minimalistic and flashy.
“On my side of the street, it technically wasn’t that complicated,” West told Polygon. “It was two people sitting at a table in a studio. It’s the dream of how to film something – nothing can go wrong.
Ironically, however, most of West’s attention while filming the scene was to make sure everything went smoothly. “I was really trying to stay away from Mia and trying to make the team hyper focused,” he says. “Once we got to the monologue, nobody was allowed to spoil anything. If something was wrong – if there was a phone ringing, or someone was in eye line, or a microphone was in the shot – it had to happen before the monologue started, because if someone messed up, it would kill the whole thing. .”
“The stakes were really high,” West says. “It was a bit like filming a stunt or an explosion, because everything has to be technically prepared for it to happen effectively. So I did my best to try to clear the road so Mia could do what she was going to do.
Goth says that for her, the main problem was overcoming the fear of failure. “The preparation was nerve-wracking,” she says. “I had never done anything like this before. There was a lot of preparation. I reread my lines daily. The last thing I wanted to do the day we were going to shoot was always go over my lines. If that had been the case, I would have failed before getting on set.
West timed the scene for the last day of filming, which Goth calls “a genius idea” that allowed him to put “all the intensity and emotional turmoil that came from filming” into the scene. She says he asked her out: “Don’t worry, if you can’t do it in one take, we can always cut.” But she was determined to make the scene as he imagined it. “We just got on set and shot it. Once we realized, ‘Okay, we box do it,” we just started having fun with it. Maybe he did it five, six times.
Usually, in the final act, horror movies turn into a wave of bloodshed or destruction. West cooks that in pearlalso ends, but he really considered Goth’s monologue to be the film’s flashy ending.
“This movie needed a big climax,” he says. “Even though it’s so rich aesthetically, and so flashy and escapist in style, the climax had to be something internal and psychological, and a lot about what Pearl thinks and feels. And it got so literal, ‘Well, what if she just told us what’s going on in her head? How can we fix this so that it makes sense? »
He wanted the monologue to be a unique shot both to “connect with the audience, emotionally and psychologically” but also to provoke interest and dissection from critics and audiences – “[like] the conversation we’re having right now about it,” he says. He knew the blow would be memorable. “It’s this big climax, but it’s such an unexpected climax. No one expects the climax of a horror movie to be a close-up of someone’s face for six minutes. And it was fresh and exciting.
West says the whole X trilogy — X, pearland the recently announced X sequel MaXXXine – is heavily focused on “showcasing the artistry of filmmaking, whether it’s camera direction, production design, makeup effects, and more.” X revolves around a pornographic film shot by a group of amateur filmmakers in the 70s in hopes of taking advantage of the era’s increasingly accessible camera technology and film distribution, and becoming wealthy and famous in the process – and the film itself is shot and constructed like a 70s horror movie. pearlset in 1918, is about Pearl’s obsession with heading to Hollywood to become the latest star of the decade’s growing movie boom. And the film is shot and constructed like a classic-era Technicolor melodrama, with a tone consciously drawn from Disney films. The first teaser for MaXXXine promises a film set in the ’80s VHS boom, complete with VHS visual stylizations and an ’80s synth score to match.
But West says he didn’t want the show’s focus on craftsmanship to be limited to the technical aspects – he points out that acting is also a crucial craft for film, and that the monologue in a single shot “seemed like a real way to show off that craftsmanship.”
For Goth, this craft is also about going out of your own way. The film’s final shot is another long, unbroken take of Pearl’s face, as she confronts what she’s been doing throughout the film and breaks down – all while maintaining a big artificial Hollywood smile that becomes more further unnerving as she shivers and cries at the same time.
“Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of thinking during that scene,” Goth says. “You just hope that all the work you do leading up to this scene […] you just hope that you get to settle down and that you’re able to let it all go, and that somehow the residue of it all [work] left a kind of imprint on you, so by the time you get to settle in, you can be as present as possible. I try not to think too much during a scene. I think it can be a bit dangerous for an actor, it gets you out of it a bit. There is more of a righteous feeling.
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