The movie that most inspires Halina Reijn is also the first movie she ever saw. The Dutch actress-turned-filmmaker was raised in the tiny village of Wildervank, in the northernmost part of the Netherlands, with no television, no movies, no moving images at all.
"I grew up in a very radical environment. My name was given to me by a cult leader," Reijn says. "It was very radical hippie, so we didn't have TV, because my parents believed moving images were bad for the soul. It was also like a paradise. My father built me a little theater, because I wanted to be an actress, so all of that was great."
"And because my parents were artists, they went off to make their art and we had a babysitter," she remembers. "And the babysitter was so bored — bored, bored, bored — and she was like, 'What are we going to do with these wooden blocks?' So, she took us to the cinema."
That movie was 1982's Annie. Reijn would go on to become an acclaimed actress onstage and in movies like Valkyrie (2008), before retiring from acting to pursue directing. She made her feature debut with 2019's prison drama, Instinct, then her English-language debut with Bodies Bodies Bodies, the satirical slasher from A24 that premiered to raves at South by Southwest.
Below, Reijn shares with A.frame the impact that Annie had on her, as well as four more films that influenced her filmmaking and Bodies Bodies Bodies, specifically.
Directed by: John Huston | Written by: Carol Sobieski
I was six when our babysitter took us to see Annie, and that's when I was complete. I was like, "I need to get to Hollywood." She brought us back home and I told my parents, "I'm going to go to America." I wanted to be like a wonder child, like a child genius. It was horror for them. But that movie influenced me the most of everything. And that will always stay with me, that movie.
Directed and written by: Michael Haneke
Apart from Annie, my favorite movie of all time is The Piano Teacher, which is about a woman — a pianist — who falls in love with a very young man. It's Fifty Shades of Grey in an arthouse kind of way. It's the most wonderful, beautiful film ever.
Directed by: Mike Nichols | Written by: Ernest Lehman
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a total favorite. In my acting, [what resonates with me is] the honesty of it — always trying to go there within yourself and finding the truth in others. And the truth is often shameful and dark and ugly. That is, for me, the only way it's worth it all, because whether you're onstage or making a film, you put in your soul and your heart and your whole.
Even with Bodies Bodies Bodies, which is of course a comedy, I feel that the honesty that we're trying to find in the acting style also creates the humor. It creates the craziness. And the circumstances are super absurdistic, but at the same time, when they cry, they really cry. That is what inspires me in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, that those actors just let go of their ego.
Directed by: Michael Lehmann | Written by: Daniel Waters
What I love about Heathers is the tone. It's funny, but it's also scary and then it also tries to reflect on group behavior and young people and how they want to belong to a group and how they don't and bullying and being excluded. That film feels very fearless to me. Also the way it looks; the colors are beautiful. I was very inspired by Heathers for this film — Heathers meets my background meets more of the heavier Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? thing, I thought would be a great combination.
Directed by: R.D. Robb | Written by: R.D. Robb, Bethany Ashton, Tawd Beckman, David Stutman and Dale Wheatley
Don's Plum is a film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire that nobody has seen in the U.S., because they made it disappear. Nobody has even heard of it. Even A24, when I pitched it, some of them had no clue what I was talking about. It's funny, because in Europe it has had a longer life and it's way more well known.
It's an absolute genius film. They were so young when they made that film and it's very raw and vulnerable, but it's amazing. It's just about young people talking in a group. And it was a huge inspiration for this, because all those group scenes, when they all overlap and that seems so effortless, but it's so hard to do. Don's Plum does such a great job at it. It's hard to get your hands on a DVD of it or whatever, but it's so worth watching. It's an insanely good film, very entertaining.