On March 15th I had a brief chat with Justin Lerner, writer/director of The Automatic Hate, his co-writer Katharine O’Brien, and the film’s star, Joseph Cross. I should warn you, some of the topics we covered do involve the most minor of spoilers, but none that I think completely ruin the film – I’m saying check The Automatic Hate out even if you read this first. I should also warn you, this was my first time ever interviewing anyone, I was ill-prepared and nervous as hell, so this going to be incredibly informal.
Anyway, here are some topics we covered:
The use of incest as a theme.
Lerner and O’Brien chose incest because it’s one of the few remaining taboos in American culture. They also wanted to use it to tell the story of a family trapped in a cycle of lies and secrets. At its core, the film is intended to be a “family thriller,” much like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca. In fact, much like Rebecca, The Automatic Hate has the spirit of a dead woman looming over it.
The use of contrasting settings.
Davis (the character played by Cross) moves between two worlds: the upper class, proper, urban environment of his father, and the more rural, woodsy, hedonistic environment of his uncle. Lerner pointed out that Davis’s uncle is not even a native to his own world – he’s a college-educated New York Jew. But he chose to live in that world for a reason. The woods have long represented an escape from the rules of society, a place where the id can run wild. Davis’s career as a chef was meant to be a bridge between the worlds – everyone has to eat after all.
The lack of villains.
None of the characters are meant to be evil. They don’t wish to do each other harm. They just react to their circumstances in a manner they each believe to be right, and usually don’t foresee the damage their actions could cause.