No Frodo though

Horror director Aster says new film is a ‘Jewish Lord of the Rings’

Filmmaker says upcoming release ‘Beau Is Afraid,’ starring Joaquin Phoenix, is partly inspired by his Jewish background

Joaquin Phoenix in an animated sequence from the "Beau Is Afraid" trailer. (Screenshot/YouTube via JTA)
Joaquin Phoenix in an animated sequence from the "Beau Is Afraid" trailer. (Screenshot/YouTube via JTA)

JTA — “It’s like a Jewish ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but he’s just going to his mom’s house.”

That’s how director Ari Aster, known for his acclaimed horror movies “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” described his new film, “Beau Is Afraid,” starring Joaquin Phoenix, in a behind-the-scenes video released on Wednesday.

Both films are about arduous journeys by their main characters, although the two treks are of a far different nature.

Aster, who works with A24, the same studio behind this year’s Oscars darling “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” said in a 2018 interview that he is a “proud Jew” who “doesn’t practice very actively,” and his previous films have not contained any Jewish content.

But he also said in the interview with the Jewish Chronicle of London that he thought his “pessimistic outlook” on life could be partly inspired by the legacy of Jewish trauma.

He added that he is interested in the work of the Jewish father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

In promoting “Beau Is Afraid,” which hits theaters April 21, he’s leaning into his work’s under-the-surface Jewish themes.

“Guilt?” he said in a New York Times interview published on Tuesday. “Isn’t that just a huge part of life? For me, the film is like a big Jewish comedy, and that’s the first thing to go in the pot.”

The film, which Aster says he has developed for over a decade, involves a middle-aged man who attempts to visit his mother, who has been injured by a fallen chandelier.

Beau seems overwhelmed by anxiety, and the visit turns into a supernatural journey, full of sci-fi elements, horror and even animated sequences.

“I built out something that was this comic, Freudian odyssey, very episodic and, I thought, very funny,” he said in the Times interview.

“If you pumped a 10-year-old full of Zoloft and had him get your groceries, that’s like this movie,” he added in the video from A24, the studio behind Aster’s works and other acclaimed films such as Adam Sandler’s Diamond District thriller “Uncut Gems.”

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