British actor, Steve Oram, co-wrote and starred in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers, and has also featured in The Mighty Boosh, The World’s End, and Paddington. His new film Aaaaaaaah! – which he stars in, wrote and directed – is screening this week at The Lido Cinemas in Melbourne. The film, in which the actors only communicate through animalistic grunts, sees Smith (Oram) fall in love with Denise (Lucy Honigman), which pushes him to prove his dominance as the alpha male on the quiet suburban streets of England. The film also stars Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, and pop singer/actor, Toyah Wilcox. FilmInk caught up with Steve Oram to talk about his unusual approach to storytelling.
You co-wrote Sightseers, and you have a number of other films under your belt. Was Aaaaaaaah! always at the back of your mind? “It’s an idea that I’d been mulling over for ages, because I found it so funny that we’re very similar to apes. Everything about us is so similar! We are primates, but no one references it. So, I had this idea for ages of speaking like apes but in a normal setting. It wasn’t until I got the right story that things started to take shape properly. The idea of doing a very straight, traditional, almost love story – Romeo and Juliet style – but in this brutal way really crystallised a lot of the ideas and themes within the film for me. I knew that I was onto something good when I started talking to people about it, and everyone was saying, ‘That sounds amazing! You’ve got to make it!’ I’ve always been very confident about it. I knew that getting the right cast would make it work. We did it on a shoestring budget, which meant that we had the freedom to do it exactly how we wanted to.”
It’s got a distinct documentary feel to it…you’re almost expecting David Attenborough to narrate the action… “It’s very much influenced by David Attenborough’s documentaries, and the unflinching way that nature documentaries in the ‘80s looked at their subjects. These days, it’s much more anthropomorphized, and there’s this weird music over the top. It’s like watching a drama about two penguins or something. But Attenborough never looked away. He’d just have a slow zoom in on this primate ape that was about to smash the brains in of another ape. It was really disturbing as a kid; I was fascinated by them. [Laughs] It stayed with me for days.”
It’s a very black and white universe in the film, with people brutally forcing their justice on others? “But then so is our culture anyway. When you strip away language, you actually are left with a very brutal culture. Language allows us to feel clever and above the creatures in nature, when we’re actually not at all. We’re just apes in clothes living in weird structures. We have rules and we’re able to kid ourselves that we’re superior. It’s true that anything in the film can actually happen in real life. Some of it is ever so slightly heightened, but it’s all real.”
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