Feb 7, 2013

Interview with Nico B.


In 2008, Soiled Sinema interviewed Dutch filmmaker/producer Nico B. regarding his collaboration with the late, great Rozz Williams on the aberrant arthouse film Pig (1998); a sordid yet solacing depiction of a sadomasochistic relationship between a serial killer (played by Rozz Williams) and his victim.  In this second interview, we ask Nico B. about his newest film 1334 (2011) based on true events regarding the ghost of Rozz Williams.

Soiled Sinema: What prompted you to direct 1334 (2011)?  Do you consider the film a ‘sequel’ to PIG (1998) or something much deeper?

Nico B: I never intend to ever make any film, unless I see no way out. In this case, Rozz's death--more precisely his ghost--was haunting me and my friends in the house I lived in. This happened over a period of 10 years, which made me finally decide to make the film, to exorcise him in a way. He has left me alone since. I see myself more as an artist using film as a canvas, as I write about my dreams, visions and at times clairvoyant experiences. As I see things in my mind as moving images, film is my natural choice of art to express myself. Otherwise, I probably would be a painter, which I tried but I simply don’t have the patience for. However, I make my living as a producer for other people's films and not as a director, which allows me little time to create, which is why it takes me years to finish the films I shoot. 
SS: What was it like directing a reconstruction of Rozz’s suicide in the very same apartment where he ended his life? 

NB: It was strange as I had not been there since his death and it was an odd situation because I could not tell the person who now rented the apartment what the film was about. If he knew in advance he probably would not allow me to shoot there in the first place. The reconstruction of the scene is part fact and fiction; for instance, the masked image inside the new video cover is actually Rozz with the mask. That image that was banned by his record company years ago for a PE record, which he re-shot with the American flag, which for him meant the same thing, a reflection of the society he was living in and the fantasy of being a serial killer. As an homage to his vision, I put at the end of the film an image of the American flag, as the end of all times, transporting us back to the year 1334. Interestingly, later on in the lab I discovered a strange interference in the hanging shots; there was a subliminal image appearing through the footage I shot in this apartment. I asked the transfer guy about this, who had 25 years experience with film and telecine, and he could not explain it. 

  SS: 1334 opens with footage of Rozz Williams’ book “Why God Permits Evil,” which was also featured in Pig. Can you describe this book? Do you know why Rozz made it and for what reason? Or is it merely an artistic work similar to his collage portraits? 

NB: 1334 starts where PIG left off, by the closing of the book, and then goes into a reality shot of the actual apartment I shot in 1997 were he lived, then transforming into the suicide scene in 1334. The book is a rework by him of The Book of Psalms, the bible of all religion. He wanted to publish the reworked art book, but he never finished it. As I have it in my possession, when I was making 1334 I discovered pages I had never seen before that he had done in the middle and towards the end of the book, chapters, visionary images, one of the images was used for the back of the Blu Ray/DVD O-ring. 

 SS: By the end of his life, Rozz developed a proclivity towards utilizing Nazi imagery, especially swastikas. Also, in the last picture ever taken of him (with Don Bolles), he has a Hitler mustache. Do you know what influenced this obsession? 

NB: Rozz was interested in anything extreme. He was not a nazi though, or a follower of religion or any other organized groups. It is merely his interest in what was forbidden and unknown, and it was a strange and interesting period in history you could certainly say. Being from Holland, I was very well aware of such history and the atrocities of the war. My own family members had been placed in working camps. However, I think that by forbidding people certain things you naturally create a curiosity, which sometimes gives the wrong interpretation. I think you should not hide such, but show the evil it stands for. Rozz used these images of how he saw today’s society as not such a pleasant place to live in, as it may look on the outside. The “Happiest place on Earth” artwork of him shows this for instance as well. I can see the difference if somebody would sympathize with Nazis or simply was intrigued with the imagery; for Rozz, he used it to open people’s minds, first as a shock and then as something to think about on another level. 

 SS: In the notes for the recent Bluray release of Pig/1334, you mentioned that actor Bill Oberst Jr. is a devout Christian. Did Oberst realize who he was portraying in 1334 and did he have anything to say about Rozz Williams and/or his art? 

NB: Yes, he did. I think I gave him a copy of PIG or showed it to him; I think he liked it. Bill Oberst Jr. is known to play depraved figures of society in films. Rozz would have loved this actor, and I knew that when I met him he was right for the part. I saw an image of him as a Nazi Zombie previously, an idea Rozz and I were actually talking about making a film about after PIG, and which I also made a screenplay for. Rozz wanted to play the Obersturmführer and I thought it would be a cool idea if we had him wear red swastika lenses. Very scary. Years later they did make a fantasy film about the return of the Nazis, called “Iron Sky”, which is ironically distributed thru my distributor Entertainment One, the home of the Twilight movies.

SS: Rock musician Dante White-Aliano played the main role in 1334. How and why did you end up casting him for the role? Is White-Aliano portraying you or someone else? 

NB: Gitane Demone knew I was looking for an actor who had good looks, and he happened to move into their house, so that was a lucky incident. Also him being a musician added an extra commitment to the film I was looking for subconsciously. All my films are about me and the people I know or have met.

SS: You had three different yet physically similar women featured in 1334 in what seems to be the same role as White-Aliano's 'love interest.' What influenced you to cast three different women and who are they?

NB: They are portraying three different lovers to the main character. During the 10 years when Rozz’s spirit appeared, each one of them disappeared for no reason other than that Rozz’s ghost showed himself to them. One of them said she nearly died. Her mother was a medium and she was open to visiting spirits and said she could feel the agony of pain from Rozz hanging himself, the actual strangulation. I thought, what if she actually would have died? So I used that as a metaphor, to answer why the main character in the movie kills himself out of guilt. In reality, how can you prove a ghost kills someone? No one would believe you. So the last scene was inspired by that. As a matter of fact, my good friend, the artist Dame Darcy, had seen Rozz's presence or spirit while she stayed at my house before completing 1334. 

 SS: You included two paintings in 1334 by Flemish Renaissance painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder. What led you to this aesthetic decision and do you feel any kinship to Bruegel as a Dutchman who artistically depicts death? 

NB: It came to me as an artistic vision. He was a painter who painted the “The Triumph of Death”, and the fact that the Black Plague had the highest death toll in the year 1334, Rozz used that number as he compared the world of today to those days. It seems that although we have evolved technically through the centuries, as people we have not. There are still senseless killings, wars, and more dead people in the last 100 years than in that same period of the plague. In a time when medicine was not developed yet, however, it did not change much when you think we are trying to prolong life everyday. Besides stupidity and politics, there may be another reason why there are so many people being killed or dying these days, deep beneath the surface. I actually made a script on that, but it was never realized as a film.

SS: Are there any Dutch filmmakers that have influenced you? What are your thoughts on arthouse auteur Frans Zwartjes? How about recent directors like the “Dutch Fassbinder” Edwin Brienen? 

NB: Funny you mention these two. Frans Zwartjes was a guest teacher at the Film Academy in The Hague I attended. When he saw my first film “Slime,” featuring Gitane Demone and Zara, her then four-year old daughter, he was asking me what it was about but as it was personal I did not tell him. However, I was pleased afterwards, as I never understood what his films were about, so we must have been on the same wavelength. Edwin Brienen was a friend of a friend of mine; I had seen him at times. Also, I videotaped Gitane at the VPRO Radio station he had a program at. For anyone who is interested, both will be uploaded on my new site. 

 SS: How has the response (film critics or otherwise) been for 1334? Has the film been screened at film festivals? 

NB: I don't know. Your review was the first, with excellent observations by the way, but not all true. I was kind of afraid to send it anywhere because the film is very personal to me, and I don't know what I think of it right now. I am planning to do some screenings in LA and New York, as I got some interest. In April, 15 years since Rozz committed suicide, there will be a screening of PIG & 1334 at the Spectacle Theater in New York, which I will attend. 

SS: Do you have plans to direct any more films in the spirit of Pig and 1334? Can we expect a trilogy? 

NB: I don't think so. I think Rozz would have let me know by now, and there is nothing else to be said from my point of view. Although on my new site you can see all the films I have made, and many are in the same spirit, or show my interest and influences over the last 23 years. 

 SS: On top of collaborating with Rozz Williams on Pig, you also edited the book "Art of Rozz Williams: From Christian Death to Death" (2003) and released the DVD Gitane Demone - Life After Death (2008) through your distribution company Cult Epics. Do you have any future plans for releasing/creating Rozz Williams related projects? 

NB: Well, there has been a project I have never finished. Rozz was going to record a new album under the title "Sleeping Dogs” in the studio, originally with the producer of the first Christian Death album, Thom Wilson. This never happened. As I had seen the track and demo list, and with the live sound recordings I had made during our tours over the past years, I was able to make a compilation of these songs. Many of them had never been released. One day soon, I hope to find someone who can produce this properly and release this lost rock album and ultimately his final album.

SS: What can we expect from you in the future? 

NB: I actually made a new film before 1334 called SIN. It was my follow up to “Bettie Page Dark Angel” in a way. The fact that Bettie ended her career with finding religion always was upsetting to me. What a way to end such a career! So I made this film about three women and their dualities and sexual depravity. The look was inspired by early vintage erotic films I have released and Man Ray’s films. It was shot on Super 8 and it took me three years; it is silent with a score of Debussey, and as some of my friends have said who I have shown it to, it is extremely shocking. I am afraid to release it. We still seem to live in the Middle Ages, where poetry is not acknowledged anymore. It could be misunderstood, unless it is seen as art. I may release it one day. 

For more info see: 
www.nicobfilms.org (coming soon) 


jervaise brooke hamster said...

I want to bugger Bettie Page (as the bird was in 1941 when the bird was 18, not as the bird is now obviously).

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Its interesting that Bettie Page didn`t start showing her bum until she was around the age of 30, by then she was 10 or 12 years past the prime of her life already ! ! !.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Bettie Pages life was essentially completely destroyed by lies, hypocrisy, sexual repression, and religious nonsense. Once again, i rest my case ! ! !.