French director Julius Berg’s directorial debut provides a cinematic translation of the graphic novel Une nuit de pleine lune by Hermann and Yves H. Starring Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams, the film follows three would-be thieves as they case the home of an elderly couple, who prove to be more dangerous (and more intelligent) than the thieves. Set in a sprawling home in the British countryside, the film builds slowly to a fiery climax.
Berg references the first film he truly loved, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, as a film that the visible part of the story (a lost alien and a boy find friendship) hides the deeper part (how the boy is dealing with the separation of his parents in divorce). It’s not lost on me that his debut film provides us some of the stereotypical elements of a horror/thriller, but that there’s more going on here than just the action on screen.
“The social and generational conflict between the young and old, the poor and rich, plays out here,” Berg explained. “We have this feeling that this old, visibly sweet couple protects a darker secret — that the three young robbers who appear nasty are nothing compared to the people who appear to be victims.”
Berg aimed to build a slow burning plot that keeps the audience waiting. “There’s a versatility to the characters,” he said, “and we need lots of different clues about what is really going on, and only showed them one at a time, slowly. So, some of the real behaviors were hidden, and we’re blind to the true behavior of the couple.”
“One detail isn’t enough to warn the robbers, or us, until it’s too late. They should have been more open-minded and focused on the truth. I wanted to make a psychological thriller that hinges on manipulation.”
When asked what lessons audiences might take away from the film, Berg pauses, before admitting that the young robbers find themselves in trouble because they’ve failed to see the connection between themselves, the other, and the rest of the world. He believes we might even see something of ourselves in the film, and be challenged.
“Maybe viewers can find enough motivation to see the part of the whole world and what their heightened life could be,” mused the director. “A painter can use rich colors, but in collaboration, you can use rich colors that you can’t find on your own. All of us are kind of painters.”
“The couple takes control of the house and turns the tables because they are connected, while the robbers are disconnected. They are able to play with the robbers’ conflict and manipulate them.”
Be warned: The Owners are not what they appear – and arrive in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on September 4, 2020.