Talking about his role in the film, the half-Spanish, half-German actor laughs: “Sooner or later I’d have to play a priest. As a German actor you have to play a Nazi, and I did that, and then I thought, I have to be a priest now.”
While Brühl admits that getting into the role of a priest was difficult, having not attended a Catholic mass since he was 12, he is not a stranger to fear. Spending parts of his childhood in a small town in Catalonia where a vampire was said to have lived, he remembers listening to horror stories and playing chicken in the graveyard of the “vampire’s” castle.
“I loved it,” Brühl explains, “because fear is of course something terrible, but at the same time a good feeling, it wakes you up. I love the feeling of being scared.”
Playing a priest in a horror film, Brühl is naturally aware of the parallels to The Exorcist , the film that sparked his love of the genre. “It was a huge trauma when I first watched it, alone when I was a teenager. I was shit scared, but since that moment I was really intrigued by horror movies.”
Intruders was his first chance to act in a horror film, and Brühl explains what drew him to the project: “It’s like a classic horror movie, working with subtle tones, sometimes quiet. It’s the kind of movie I really enjoy.”
It also struck a personal chord with him, as he recognised the monster from the film, the Hollow Face, as the, “universal monster which every one of us knows from our childhood nightmares and fears.” He explains that when he was a child, “I always had the impression that somebody was intruding, and had entered my private space. I very much liked this idea of Hollow Face. He’s in your room, he’s under your bed.”
Working with director Fresnadillo on the project, Brühl got in touch with his own Spanish heritage. “In the last couple of years, there has been a wave of horror cinema, and it’s a sign of how much quality and talent there is in Spain,” he says. “The centre of cinema has always been Madrid, but now there’s this vibrant film scene in Barcelona. And as a Catalan, I think it’s important.”
Being fluent in Spanish, German and French as well as English, Brühl has had a chance to work in many European countries and experience different styles of movie making. “It’s interesting how diverse every country is,” he says. “I think each country has a special quality for making a certain kind of movie. Spain is very good with horror, the French are good with drama and comedy, and in Germany… we’re not good with comedy, I can’t understand why we shoot so many. It makes me a bit sad, because a couple of years ago there was a very vibrant moment in German cinema, but I think we’ve lost it,” Brühl reflects. “That’s why it’s been a huge luxury for me to work in other countries.”
Intruders is set for DVD release in the UK on 21 May, and Brühl hopes that viewers will appreciate the film’s slow-building suspense. He says, “Maybe people expect something more brutal or horrifying, but I think it’s nice to see that sometimes you don’t need that much action, blood and explosions. If you have a good script, good performances and suspense in the story, sometimes that can be enough.”
Intruders is available on Blu-ray and DVD now
Pilar Lopez De Ayala interview on the next page
Pilar Lopez De Ayala
In Intruders , Pilar Lopez De Ayala plays a Spanish mother who tries to protect her son Juan from an unknown horror.
How would you dscribe Intruders ?
“Intruders is not only a horror movie, it's also a fantastic thriller about the power of the imagination, which explores what we can create with our minds. It has supernatural features but it's also a psychological family drama.”
Was it ever creepy during the filming, or does having a crew watching you prevent that?
“Not particularly, as this movie explores the sources of fear. More specifically, it addresses the phantoms and fears which we inherit, and which are carried from generation to generation. It highlights the need to break that chain in order to evolve.
However, my character in the film (Luisa) is worn-down by life. Looking at the mirror every morning and seeing myself characterised as this tired, nervous woman was creepy.”
What attracted you to the role?
“Luisa’s complexity, strength, humanity and fragility. Also, the delicate space she encompasses, somewhere between fantasy and reality.”
What was Juan Carlos Fersnadillo like as a director?
‘He believes in the intuition of his actors. Before filming, he has a clear idea of each character in his mind, but at the same time he very flexible and willing to incorporate ideas which come up naturally during rehearsals or on set. He can deftly combine the emotional with the aesthetic to create what he is looking for in a film.”
What scares you?
“Fear is a human feeling and this movie has allowed me to understand it. I think that the main pillars of fear are loneliness and not being loved. All other fears stem from those. As long as we are alive we will keep feeling fear.”
What was the most challenging thing about the role?
“The hardest part for me was filming the action scenes. Getting out of a window hanging from a cord, performing an exciting moment where people´s lives are in danger in the pouring rain, are all choreographed and require a lot of physical energy - even though they were the most fun.”
Was it an intense movie to film?
“Juan Carlos is a very precise director and the movie had enough budget to do repeat takes from several physical and emotional angles. It was an intense experience but also playful and rewarding.”
Intruders is available on Blu-ray and DVD now