The rugged coast of Jersey is where Michael Pearce’s thriller debut unfolds, as jagged as the terrain his characters so treacherously walk. Inspired by the real crimes committed in the 1960s by the ‘Beast of Jersey’, Pearce fulfils a fascination with the violence that took place in the fairy-tale landscape he knew as a boy.
Speaking at a film preview and Q&A at Brighton’s Duke of York’s on Weds 18 April, he revealed a loss of innocence at the tender age of eight when he realised that monsters really do exist. What ensues is a gripping exploration of the primal psyche, a sensory onslaught that digs deep under the skin of one Jersey resident.
“I wanted it to be enchanting and seductive,” explained Pearce.
We follow Moll (Jessie Buckley) the downbeat home-schooled choir girl locked in the confines of her own home, the island and her new found relationship with Pascal (Johnny Flynn). Laden with the expectations of her overbearing mother and the pressure of passing as a respectable member of society, Moll turns to the unknown. Pascal delivers on all of our expectations: the mysterious stranger come to rescue the heroin from the absurdity of her life. But while a serial killer runs loose, Moll finds herself tangled in a situation far more complex than she imagined.
We’re guided by our bodies and by our instincts, and if anything our intellect gives us a very fancy post-rationalisation on decisions that we may have already made on a gut level, said Pearce, explaining why he drew on elements of a nature documentary.
The title, he said, encourages the viewer to observe the characters as animals, as a species with primitive ways. The soundtrack conveys a similar feeling.
The music has to sound like it’s coming from the guts of the character, like it’s emanating from her skin, Pearce explained.
Beast was funded by the British Film Institute and Film 4 and premiered recently at the Toronto International Film Festival.
An exclusive preview in Brighton lead one ex-Jersey resident to claim ‘It was kind of like the Jersey film I’ve been waiting to see all my life.’
Beast screens at Duke of York’s and Duke’s at Komedia on Tues 24 April, and cinemas nationwide on Fri 27 April 2018.