Thrill&Kill: You recently made it on our list of the most promising horror directors. While this is hardly the most important award, does it mean anything to you, if people not only watch and like your individual movies, but also realize your work as a whole?
Timo Tjahjanto: Thank you! It means a lot to me, one thing I prefer is not to be defined as a horror director but simply as a filmmaker who loves horror films. I’m always striving to dwell on other genres as well. I find inspiration from films like Home Alone to films like Ryu Murakami’s Tokyo Decadence.
T&K: You started your feature film career with MACABRE, which was some kind of remake of your shortfilm DARA. MACABRE on the other hand reminded me a bit of the French INSIDE. Is that pure coincidence or was that a look/style you liked?
Timo Tjahjanto: I’ve been asked about this several times actually, as soon as we did DARA we went on to make MACABRE, it was at Screamfest 2007 when we saw INSIDE for the first time, we were laughing at ourselves about the parts that ring similar to our script. But to be honest its like comparing a broccoli and a T-bone steak, INSIDE is psychological terror trip while MACABRE was a simple ode to the wet and greasy American slasher.
Personally I know INSIDE is a fucking superior film by lightyears , Maury and Bustilo remains to be my heroes, I was so happy when I heard they were lined up to do HELLRAISER, and of course that dream is dashed instantly.
T&K: When I first watched your segment in THE ABCS OF DEATH, I didn’t know who the director is and thought this is the one from Srdjan Spasojevic (A SERBIAN FILM) because of the obvious sexual content. Turns out you got a pretty sick mind, too. Is there anything (aside from real violence) that you wouldn’t show in a film?
Timo Tjahjanto: It might surprise you but up until now I have not seen A SERBIAN FILM, and I will not bullshit you because I’ve been told that there’s a scene where a baby gets raped. I have nothing against it, but I have serious weakness when it comes to two things on screen: rape and babies getting hurt, psychologically it really kicks me in my weak spot. I remember being so upset for days after seeing that rape scene in Irreversible.
T&K: L IS FOR LIBIDO disappeared in the German version of THE ABCS OF DEATH. Because of censorship, the alphabet only has 22 letters left in Germany, MACABRE and SAVE HAVEN have also been cut a lot here (and probably elsewhere). How do you feel about that?
Timo Tjahjanto: I think the German censorship is a funny thing, I remember when I was a young boy (I was born in Wilhemshaven) walking around in the Bahnhof area, and I could be wrong but I vaguely remember as an 11, 12 year old kid looking at BDSM and bestiality porn which was sold openly over there (it could be an adult bookstore which was situated inside a Bahnhof) . Truth to be told sex was exposed to me in a big way in the time that I spent in Germany. But I come realize that while you can liberaly see dicks and vaginas in tv channels like ZDF, you can’t see a guy get his neck torn, which is not a bad thing I suppose.
T&K: Let’s talk about your new film KILLERS. It’s coming out in Germany soon. Apparently this is not a prototype horror movie but more of a complex story of two killers in different countries. Imdb.com lists this one as Action/Drama/Crime, but I have a feeling it will still be rather brutal. Is this the next step in your career in terms of storytelling?
Timo Tjahjanto: As I said, I love all sorts of genres, I still think KILLERS has its own horror elements. But with a mixture of psychological exploration. However if people expect Action in this one, I think they will be sorely disappointed.
T&K: As in other films you wrote the screenplay and also directed KILLERS, which part was more fun? Creating it in your
mind or creating it “physically”?
Timo Tjahjanto: I think so far my experience has been more liberating when it comes to me putting materials on paper, but I’d be honest, writing is a very lonely process. While shooting is fun, but the reality of what you write on paper doesn’t always translate smoothly when it comes to the set. It’s all a learning experience, and by the time both process feels good and comes out good, that’s when I think the job is done.
T&K: You teamed up with Gareth Evans for SAFE HAVEN and are part of the Mo Brothers, with Kimo Stamboel as the other Mo, with whom you directed MACABRE and now KILLERS. What’s the difference between working on your own and working with Gareth or Kimo?
Timo Tjahjanto: I’d like to say that I am a pedal that always hits the gas, while Kimo is the brake that keep the speed in check. Gareth, he is that turbo boost button.
T&K: You are a pretty international guy. Gareth is from Wales, you live in the US now, but are from Indonesia, KILLERS is half Japanese…how does that influence your movies? And when will you come to work in Germany?
Timo Tjahjanto: Actually I am based in Jakarta now, with my family. I always believe that my movies should be made for everyone, not restricted with borders, or language. And I’d probably sell my soul to the devil to shoot in Germany, here’s to it happening sometimes in the future.
T&K: I heard you are also a quite talented drawer. Is that something you just do for fun or might we see some kind of exhibition or a book with your paintings one day?
Timo Tjahjanto: Maybe someday , I am generally too lazy and undisciplined for devotion to the canvas and paper, but I’ve been exploring the idea, though , its all amateur interest so far.
T&K: Indonesia is not exactly the best-known place for (horror-)movies, at least not here. How did you get into the filmbusiness and how did you discover your passion for horror and thrillers?
Timo Tjahjanto: I am not really interested in the Indonesian market or what the public here have interest of, this goes back to my place as a filmmaker who wants to make films that can transcend borders. I grew up on Akira Kurosawa, Scorsese , Hitchcock, Leone and the likes, none of them are restricted by the country they come from.
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