Beau Is Afraid director Ari Aster wishes the movie had more viewers to polarize. The surrealist comedy-horror-tragedy stars Joaquin Phoenix as the titular paranoid character who confronts his biggest fears while journeying home to attend his mother's funeral. Although it received critical acclaim, Beau Is Afraid‘s staggered release in April did no favors for the A24 film, which bombed at the box office.
According to Vanity Fair, Beau Is Afraid‘s $35 million budget makes it one of the most expensive films ever produced by A24. Aster says, “I’m always happy to hear anything about the film since its release was slightly stunted. So, it’s gratifying to know that people are still finding it, and I hope that they continue to find it.”
Aster continues, “I always knew the film was going to be polarizing and it’s designed to be divisive. The film shape-shifts a lot, and the film has something of hostility toward traditional narrative structure. It was always important to me that the film be about a character who does not change, so already, this is something that’s going to alienate certain people and it’s designed to alienate certain people. The length is part of that. That was certainly something that I had to fight for, and to the credit of A24 who had a lot invested in the film, they really allowed me to make the film I wanted to make. I’m really pleased with the shape of the film and proud of it. When you’re making a film like that, you’re very excited by the idea of dividing people, but then it comes out and it divides people, and then you realize, ‘Oh, wait a minute. This is also functioning as a deterrent for people to even go see it.'”
Ari Aster Says That He Won't Make a Film Like Beau Is Afraid Again
American filmmaker Ari Aster is best known for his acclaimed horror films Hereditary and Midsommar. Beau Is Afraid has surreal imagery and Aster's signature style like his previous two films, but didn't find its intended audience. Aster tells Vanity Fair:
“I’m doing my best to not learn certain lessons because I won’t make a film like Beau Is Afraid again. I hope none of my films are too similar to any others, while at the same time, I recognize that I keep returning to certain themes and that there are things that echo, that I’m already noticing through my work that I’m not fully aware of while I’m writing them. One thing that excites me about Beau is that there are certain things that I buried in that film that still haven’t been talked about, and I was kind of disappointed by the way people were maybe engaging with the film on first release because it was very verdict based like, ‘Well, it doesn’t all work.' It’s like, ‘Well, wait, what doesn’t work?' The film is an experiment in so many ways. Even what he finds up in that attic is a very specific provocation. I’m deliberately blowing up the whole film. People talked about it as a letdown when clearly—yeah, that’s the joke! Interpret this, right?”
About making a film as personal as Beau Is Afraid and releasing it into the world to sink or swim, Aster says, “When you make a film like this, it feels in some ways like you’re just pulling yourself inside out. With this film especially as it came out, I felt very protective of it. I’ve said this before, but it’s absolutely my favorite of my own films and I think the furthest I’ve been able to go. I’ve only made three films, but there was a real joy in making it. I’ll leave it there.”
Beau Is Afraid is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digitally.