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Filmmaker Letter

Filmmaker Letter

The Devil All the Time

by director Antonio Campos

Due to the pandemic, a month ago, I gave up hope that The Devil All the Time would ever play in any theatre, anywhere. Since there were no premieres planned and no theatrical release in sight, my wife and I decided there was no reason to stick around New York. So we packed up and moved our family down to Chile where my wife is from.

You can imagine the pleasant surprise when I got the email saying Landmark was going to be able to program the film.

We always knew that the film was to live on Netflix and were excited for the kind of immediate global reach the film would have because of that. But we always dreamed that people would also have the chance to experience the film on a big screen. The film was shot on 35mm in a wide 2.40 aspect ratio, with every frame designed to celebrate its subject whether that be the small, lonely church in the middle of a field at twilight or an extreme close up on Reverend Teagarden’s face (played by Robert Pattinson) swishing the juices of Emma Russell’s chicken livers around in his mouth.

And it's not only the image that benefits from the theatrical experience. It's also the sound. The film's sweeping score, the wonderful soundtrack made up of gospel, country and pop, and finally the raspy, vinegar-filled narration provided by the author of the novel himself, Donald Ray Pollock, played loud on the theatre’s speakers will envelope you from start to finish.

I would have loved to be in a theatre (standing six feet away from the audience) introducing the film. Since I won’t be able to do that, Landmark’s given me the chance of at least giving a little virtual introduction to the movie here.

I’m often asked why I’m drawn to stories about dark characters. In response, I’ve always said that what I’m drawn to is stories about complicated people. And this is one of those stories.

As soon as I finished Donald Ray Pollock’s The Devil All the Time—a sprawling cross between hard-boiled noir and Southern gothic grotesquerie of biblical proportions bursting with complex, misshapen characters, places and moments that all connect in an unexpected way—I became obsessed.

On its surface, the book is a pastiche of classic crime and Southern gothic literature set between two wars (World War II and Vietnam), but at its core, it’s a generational story about the cyclical pattern of violence and its connection to the abuse of faith at both a macro and micro level. The story is very simply about what we inherit and what we pass on.

I don’t want to say too much about the story itself. My hope is for you to sit back and just go along for the ride and have the same surprising experience I had when I first read the book. Rest assured, though, things just have a way of sorting themselves out in Knockemstiff, and even if you don't get a happy ending, there's still the potential for a better beginning.

Posted September 8, 2020

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