By Jordan Gerdes
Recently, I was given the opportunity to screen Hagazussa, a film destined to be held in high regard as the horror folklore subgenre grows. It was thoroughly impressive and extremely well made and effective. I also got the opportunity to chat with the director, Lukas Feigelfeld, about the movie, and horror in general. I really hope you enjoy !
FoF: Firstly, tell the readers a bit about yourself, Lukas.
I am an Austrian director, living in Berlin. After studying photography in Vienna, I moved to Germany, where I studied at the German Film- and Television Academy and graduated with my first feature film Hagazussa.
FoF; So you wrote and directed this film. What was the inspiration that led you to this story?
Growing up in Austria, with parts of my family originating in the Alps around Salzburg, I was early on surrounded by the nature and the folklore of this area.
In these parts there are still a lot of traditions and rituals that have Pagan origin, spring and solstice celebrations, witch characters, Krampus, etc.
All these things made a lasting impact on me as a kid. Realizing that the original witch character, for example of the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm, actually comes
from these old stories and believes, it became more and more interesting for me to work on this topic and let my childhood nightmares of witches come to life.
FoF: The cinematography was incredible by the way. So serene and, I guess, forbidden at times, if that makes sense. The character of Albrun and her isolation plays such a pivotal role in the plot, how did you find these locations or did you have them in mind when writing?
I mostly already knew the areas and mountains where the film was shot. I was hiking there and also spent some time in a mountain hut, just next to the one where the film takes place. The stillness and darkness of this absolute nature
can be very intimidating, but also inspiring. It was the key inspiration for the loneliness and isolation of Albrun, that leads to her unstable mental state.
Knowing the locations beforehand, I could write the scenes in a very detailed way and it allowed us to shoot very prepared and therefore on the extremely low budget we had.
FoF: For a film that is devoid of voice for most of the runtime, just how important was it for the score to be perfect in telling this story?
As it turned out in the end, the soundtrack became very important and managed to really merge with the story and overall atmosphere of the film.
Dealing with the isolation from the village-society, it was clear that there would not be much dialogue. The ears were focused on the nature, the cracks in the bushes, the winter winds in the trees and the goblins in the darkness.
I was very early on, in the writing process, inspired by the music of MMMD, the Greek so-called “chamber doom” duo, who in the end composed the original soundtrack for the film.
I am very happy how the deep cello drones of MMMD lay the underline key to the madness of the main character. The soundtrack is also available digitally or on vinyl, for those who are interested.
FoF: I enjoyed the chapters or act titles when viewing the film. Shadows, Horn, Blood, and Fire. Can you talk a little about the backstory of those and what, if any, folk lore you drew on from this region?
I had the chapters already in an early script version, mainly because I like to give structure to the story. Then they were taken out, but added again in the editing process. It helped to create the feeling of a tale, like an old book.
The titles roughly refer to an underline understanding, from a more Pagan origin, on what is happening in the story. There is no particular back story, but these elements are a very present part of the nature-focused folklore of the region.
It was important to me to display them in the Latin alphabet, as well as in Pagan runes. It is used to underline the balance between the old nature focused believes of Albrun, compared to the christianisation by the catholic church and their moral dogmas, which they put on Albrun, like they did with the prosecution of witches back in those times.
I like to see the chapter-titles as elements, like the ingredients of a witches broth, that will ultimately safe Albrun from her torment.
FoF: What was the hardest scene to film on this project?
Hard to say. There were a lot of challenges. Specially working with a very limited budget, handling different animals, kids, a baby and the forces of nature.
There was a moment, while shooting on a very high point of the mountain, where we were surprised by a sudden hail storm. Within minutes ice came from the sky, and
we, not even being surrounded by trees, where quite worried to be struck by lightning. But besides being terrible soaked and having to hide in the cars for a while, we managed.
I really learned to respect the mountain climate and to accept what the mountain gives you.
FoF: Do you have any upcoming projects?
I am currently finishing my next feature film script, hoping to be able to shoot as soon as possible. It is maybe not a full on horror film, but deals with the heavy atmosphere of political, social and physical violence in the current metropolis.
It will surely be a quite disturbing experience to watch.
FoF: How did Bloody Disgusting get involved in this wider rerelease?
After premiering the film at Fantastic Fest in 2017, we got some attention in the US horror scene. To my knowledge our sales agent Raven Banner Entertainment got into talks with Bloody Disgusting and Doppelgänger Releasing to bring the film to US audiences.
FoF: And now some questions I ask all our interviewees, what was the thing that got you into horror?
I always had a quite dark disposition, but I guess the inspiration comes from nightmares and what scares someone. Making films out of this is sort of like an exorcism to me.
Also, starting to work on Hagazussa, I did not necessarily see it as a horror film, but focused on the suffering and torment of Albrun’s mind and existence. This ultimately led to the horror that she experiences.
FoF: What is the best horror film you have seen recently?
That’s tricky. I am normally pretty critical, as I want to be deeply disturbed, rather than scared by jump-scares, and this quality is hard to find.
I think I would pick Climax by Gaspar Noe. It’s not really a horror film, but it is a fucking nightmare.
FoF: What is your favorite all time film?
Also hard to say, but to keep it simple: 2001 – A Space Odyssey is still a film that broke all boundaries, when it comes to the cinematic experience.
FoF: If you could direct any horror movie for a remake, what would it be?
I am not a big fan of remakes. If a film was great, or even a classic, there is no use in making it again. It won’t be better.
But if I had to pick, I would maybe say ” Les Yeux sans visage (Eyes Without a Face)” by Georges Franju.
FoF: Thank you so much for your time! I truly appreciate it and I loved your film. Can’t wait to see what is next!
Huge thanks to Lukas Feigelfeld and MSophia PR for arranging this interview.
Take the time to watch Hagazussa, releasing April 19th in select theaters and April 23rd on DVD, Bluray and VOD.
Our review is available as well, it is truly a special film.