Film is about exploration. Whether that’s exploring your identity or your goals and dreams, the stories that we put on the big screen are usually an unearthed element of ourselves, especially as filmmakers and writers.
For Ben Parker, director of chilling thriller The Chamber, he used film to explore his fear – claustrophobia. The film revolves around a military mission that goes awry causing a submarine to sink to the bottom of the North Korean seabed.
Ahead of The Chamber’s release today, we spoke to Parker at the Glasgow Film Festival to speak about his tense underwater fright.
How are you?
I’m OK. Excited to be here (at Glasgow Film Festival,) I’ve been here a few times but to be showing a film, that’s really terrific.
You’re at Glasgow Film Festival and had a successful run at FrightFest how does the response feel?
The reception has been welcoming. It was a little contentious being FrightFest as it’s more a thriller than a horror but audiences really got the tension and the atmosphere.
How did the story of The Chamber come about?
I am very claustrophobic and the idea came from tapping into that. Thinking “this would freak me out filming it” and I just went for it.
The kernel of the main story, however, came from stories my uncle used to tell me. He was a pilot in the military and told me tales of a giant squid on the sand. That idea got stuck in the back of my mind.
Not only that, but there were all these geopolitics happening that was menacing. It got me thinking about “how are we going to deal with it.” I wrote it during the Obama administration and it was inspired by the use of drones.
All those three things combined and it grew this piece about what would happen if you were lost in the worst place ….
How difficult was it work with water?
We made our own water tank and it was a fantastic set by John Moger. It was black and getting into the void was pretty freaky. We were surrounded by it all and it felt disconnected or that we were in space. I chose to accept the latter feeling.
It was also great to be in the same situation as the actors and feeling the vibe. We shot in real time so the emotions and the unravelling happened realistically. At the end of shooting, we were feeling tired and water-logged.
How did you develop the tension of the single location? What other single location films were you inspired by?
(Slight spoilers for The Vanishing)
I was more inspired by The Vanishing and the events that lead up to being in the coffin and buried in the ground. Buried was less about how he ended up there and I wanted to expand upon the events leading up to it. But it’s interesting how they keep it engaging for an hour and a half .
Our DOP made the decision to keep a fluid motion with the movements and characters. I’m not a massive fan of shaky came but having the camera slowly bobbing makes each shot different and interesting.
An overall influence is Dead Calm, that sinking yacht was a tense moment.
How difficult is it shooting a film like this on a low budget?
A large portion was getting the bespoke tank and being able to film with the water. It was a balancing act with the budget. But everyone was like “I want to do it, let’s figure it out.”
How was casting, you’d have to get everyone right?
It was very important. There was four of them and you never leave them. You have to get the right mix of people. Johannes Kuhoke as Mats was just fantastic. We’ve all seen Force Majeure so seeing him as the straight guy, the hero, and what he can convey without any words and with just looks was astonishing. There’s a raw energy you get through the camera lens. Charlotte Salt is a wonderful character . She starts off as somewhat of an antagonist and just changes into a protagonist and it’s a credit to the actress that she can do that and make it believable.
We’re working on a couple of things. With STUDIOCANAL releasing The Chamber it has opened a couple of doors. I have a thriller I’m developing set in the Second World War.
With all this taut thrillers, my mum’s worried. She’s always asking:
“Why can’t you make a nice romance?”
But lucky for us, Parker has made one of the better thrillers of the year.
The Chamber is out in cinemas now.