Jane Schoenbrun’s first narrative feature, We’re all going to the world’s fair, is a spellbinding horror film that eschews the traditional three-act structure in favor of bold, unprecedented cinematic language and a deep fascination with its central character, Casey, who lives most of her life as a teenager in his bedroom, posting vlogs as part of a sinister and mysterious online trend called the “World’s Fair Challenge”. The writer-director’s curiosity about Internet subcultures stems from their own non-binary and trans identities, growing up and looking at the computer as an outlet to express themselves authentically.
“People were collaborating in this very decentralized way to create new narratives that really could only have been created on the internet,” says Schoenbrun, referring to various dark online horror characters and widely shared online stories that inspired their film. “It really resonated and reminded me of something I was looking for online in my own youth, which was an effort to remove myself from my body and my identity and exist in a space where I could creatively express myself. , and maybe even explore myself personally, outside of the “real world”. ”
Schoenbrun says coming out as trans allowed them to finally tell the stories they had locked away in their subconscious. “I don’t think I had a creative burst after coming out,” they think. “I think I found the courage to share my inner world with the outer world, which was very difficult for me before the transition.”
Shame, both internal and external since childhood, has been a brake on creativity for Schoenbrun before this prolific new phase of their career: “I was not encouraged to express myself. And so you learn to put it away, and you learn to go online and write stories on the internet, disconnected from your real life, and you learn, basically, to be ashamed. The process of starting to put a language on who I was, and becoming who I needed to be, was a process of untangling my relationship to that shame and overcoming it. I think that’s what allowed me to make a movie like this, to make a movie like the next one, and to do all the things that I’m going to do. These are the stories I have always wanted and needed to tell. And they were still there. They were just lodged behind an internalized transphobia.
World exhibition is the first in a planned body of work that Schoenbrun dubs “The Screen Trilogy”, which will be followed by their upcoming thriller A24. I saw the TV shinefeaturing an ensemble cast including Phoebe Bridgers and Danielle Deadwyler, and a television project titled Public access to the afterlife.
“This passage of living my life as a spectator of the world, in the wrong body and the wrong identity, and slowly becoming myself and an artist, going from someone who, like Casey in World exhibition, spends all of your time staring at a screen, to someone who somehow walks into the screen – that, to me, is a really powerful metaphor for transition and how it feels,” explains Schoenbrun. “Equally, I find the glow of a screen to be appealing. It’s something I very naturally gravitate towards, the same way David Cronenberg gravitates towards body horror or Christopher Nolan gravitates towards super time. confusing. [plots].”
This story first appeared in a December standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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