When I was a kid I used to spend a lot of time in my grandmother’s garden, and I would actually do insane stuff. Like I would spend hours watching an ant hill. And I would try and recognize the ants from one another every day. And of course the garden was full of insects and I would name them and I admired them. I think they’re present in most of my movies because I have such admiration and fear of them. And I always thought, listening to Bible tales, I don’t know why, I always thought that archangels should look like insects, because archangels were sort of the tough guys of God’s army and I always imagined them looking like this. Shelled, armored creatures.
And I believe that the girl’s reality in the movie, you should be able to read it as existing in her mind or as being a really raggedy, left-out-in-the-rain kind of magical world because she has been gone from it for so long. So the movie allows you to interpret it both ways. For me, funny enough, to me what she see is a fully blown reality--a spiritual reality. But I believe her tale not to be just a reflection of the world around her, but to me she really turns into the princess of the underworld.
I think that there is a point in our life when we’re kids when literature and magic and fantasy has a strong presence in our soul as religion would have in later days. I think that it’s a spiritual reality as strong as when people say, “I accept Jesus in my heart.” Well, at a certain age, I accepted monsters in my heart. The girl is basically sort of autobiographical for me.
I think that the entire world we live in is fabricated. So when I think about, you know Republican, Democrat, left, right, morning, night, geography borders, all these things are conceits. Borders are not visible from a satellite picture. The fact that you can have a civil war where two sides kill each other and essentially from afar they look exactly the same. They are both the same human beings. They share the same taste for food. They sing the same songs and so on and so forth. This imagined conceit can create such horrors. And I think when people talk about fantasy and they demean it, like “Oh, fantasy is such a low concern,” well, I think politics, religion, are equal inventions for me at least.
The Pale Man is, in function, a prototypical ogre in the fairy tale—a devourer of children. But in appearance I wanted it to look like essentially a monster a child could imagine. A monster from the id.
What I noticed early on is I ordered first the make effects company to create sort of an old guy that had been very fat and had shrunken so the skin was loose and hanging, and at the same time, I asked them to remove the face. Because I remember manta rays upside down they have this thin mouth and the little nostril-like openings and they have a very disturbing neutrality to them.
And then one of the things I remember as a kid is one of the first things you do is you draw your own hand, you trace it, and you put an eye or a mouth or a face. And it is very often that child psychologists find that one of the first things a kid does in inventing a monster is displacing the mouth or displacing the eyes. And I came up with the idea since the character had stigmata, I said Let’s put the eyes in there. And what came out instinctively was an incredibly brutal incredibly Freudian or Jungian creature.