Richard Raaphorst and Karel Roden Talk Frankenstein's Army's Intensity, Creating the Film's Zombots, and Lots More
DREAD CENTRAL: I really love when he [Frankenstein] appeared on screen. It was exciting, ranting at the camera. It almost felt like, since you shot it in such a short amount of time, like live theatre.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: That’s absolutely on purpose.
KAREL RODEN: Also, it was fun, big fun. You can’t take it too seriously.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: That’s true, actually.
KAREL RODEN: We’re trying to entertain the audience and ourselves as well.
DREAD CENTRAL: Is that something that attracted you to the genre when you were younger?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: I was very shocked when I saw the exploding head in Scanners and stills from Zombie Holocaust.
DREAD CENTRAL: How old were you?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Nine or eight. And I was so shocked that I was absolutely, really scared shitless of zombies. Really, till I was the age of fifteen, and then I rented them all. I just got totally obsessed, I wanted to see everything. I think maybe just to overcome this fear. And basically this is also the case with Frankenstein’s Army, which is that I’m very much afraid of war, and I’m very afraid of something as evil as fascism. Really. I mean, because we have such a safe country. And it’s really something that’s hanging over, I don’t know, it’s just maybe an original… it belongs to reality, and I’m very much aware that what we have can be destroyed the day after. And I don’t know, it’s just something that’s inside me.
DREAD CENTRAL: Is that what you think you’re trying to figure out when you work in the genre, when you continue to work in the genre?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: I think I’m trying to understand. I don’t know; I like the dark side of things.
DREAD CENTRAL: Always, since you were young?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Yeah, and I’m looking for them. I think Karel is a very positive orientated actor, but he has, doing Frankenstein’s Army, a dark side that he carries with him. A mysterious side, it’s a mysterious side, it’s not dark, and that’s very intriguing and inspiring, and I like that kind of place. It’s like the deep ocean, where everything is black. That’s where I, that’s my comfort zone. It really is. I think what I do is trying to overcome my fear, really.
DREAD CENTRAL: Outside of fear and darkness, where else do you draw your inspiration from for your work? And did you actually create the “zombots”? You drew them out?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Yeah, I’m a storyboard artist for fifteen years, so I’m used to a drawing table. Yeah, I drew everything out, everything. For everything you see I have four more versions of it.
DREAD CENTRAL: Karel, did you get to see them all?
KAREL RODEN: Yeah.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: I have a poster, and at the end there were a hundred or so, so what I did was… we had a limited budget, and we want to have an army, so what I did, I designed Lego parts, which you can combine over and over again. So if you have six monsters, multiply that by six, and you can have 36 variations. So I designed only maybe eight, but because of the combinations, a little bit of extra paint spray here and here, you can multiply them endlessly, and that’s where creativity begins.
DREAD CENTRAL: Did you also sort of draw the human characters and Frankenstein, what they were going to wear, what they were going to do?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Yeah, I did drawings of him, I designed glasses, kinds of coats, I had a fantastic Czech wardrobe mistress who really, my god, she was spot on. And I designed all of the Russian characters also, because in a war movie, all of the soldiers look the same, you know? I always get confused, who is whom, and then he’s shot and I can’t remember who, so I really wanted to make them different from each other. That’s also why I was obsessed with my characters. And also, in silhouettes, if you make them black, you can still recognize them.
DREAD CENTRAL: That’s very important.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Even the soldiers.
DREAD CENTRAL: How does coming from a very visual background lend to actually putting a film together, getting behind the camera and editing?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: It makes you very vulnerable because you don’t have techniques. When I was working with… well, when I was working with you [to Roden], I didn’t know how to direct an actor.
DREAD CENTRAL: How did that happen? What happened the first time you tried to direct?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: I don’t know, I just told everyone what I thought it should be. I always, also, wanted to know what they wanted to tell me, to just see if there is something better than what I had in my mind, or some combination. But that’s a very tiring process because you have to learn all the time. But when I look back in retrospect, I think that’s the way to go… It’s like when you want to make a movie for dwarves, you need to hire dwarves. If you want a movie for a giant public, you have to hire giants. People who are bigger than yourself, and that is what I wanted to do, just to evolve, to become better. And I think now I don’t have that anymore. You don’t need that technique at all.
DREAD CENTRAL: The need to collaborate is very strong when you come from a commercial art background where everyone is expected to have input. How did you manage to shoot it in 20 days?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Yeah, it was just blocking…you prepared the route you were going to do, and you were timing it.
DREAD CENTRAL: So they were building as you were filming?
KAREL RODEN: Yes, the… scouting? Where they pick the exteriors? It was a priority, so they didn’t have to build, they used an old—what it was?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: It was an old mining complex.
KAREL RODEN: Empty one. For years.
DREAD CENTRAL: In the Netherlands? I didn’t see exactly where it was shot.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: In the Czech Republic.
KAREL RODEN: It wasn’t far from Prague.
RICHARD RAAPHORST: In the script, it took place in a deserted village, so we were looking for a deserted village in the Czech Republic. Then I saw pictures of Mayrau the mining complex, and I thought, wow man, this is way better. Let’s do it there. So we changed the script in order to do it in the mining complex. But this is the way we worked the whole movie, like improvisation we did it on all of the last takes. It’s also like you know you have the set, and this is the script, and it doesn’t really fit. So we must make it fit. [To Roden] you remember that eating sequence? It was totally different in the beginning. And it was watching through the monitor, no, it’s not good enough, and then you fell.
KAREL RODEN: It was the close-ups. You don’t need them to make it stronger. It’s like you said, it’s like theatre work. You see it all at once.
DREAD CENTRAL: So what awesomeness are you up to next? Can you tell us if there will be more Frankenstein’s Army movies? Maybe Hitler becomes diesel-punk?
RICHARD RAAPHORST: Or Stalin.
Dark Sky Films will open Richard Raaphorst’s Frankenstein's Army in select cities July 26th.
Frankenstein's Army takes place toward the end of World War II as Russian soldiers push into eastern Germany and stumble across a secret Nazi lab, one that has unearthed and begun experimenting with the journal of one Dr. Viktor Frankenstein. The scientists have used the legendary Frankenstein's work to assemble an army of super-soldiers stitched together from the body parts of their fallen comrades - a desperate Hitler's last ghastly ploy to escape defeat.
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