Click here to listen to the interview.
Click here for the full review of AMERICAN ANIMALS.
Bart Layton’s background is in documentaries, and so when he came to make AMERICAN ANIMALS, he integrated that genre into the narrative structure of his film. The result is nothing short of scathingly brilliant, and is the progenitor of a new genre: the non-fiction narrative. I brought that up when I spoke with him on April 9. 2018. But that comes later in our conversation
The film tells the true story of four kids attending Transylvania University in Kentucky who, in 2004, decided to rob that institution of some of its prize holdings. Specifically, several rare books, including Audubon’s Birds of America. It’s not that they were criminals, nor even, as the film makes of point of establishing, bad kids. Instead, they were acting on an implicit promise that our culture had made to them: that they were special, and would have lives outside the ordinary.
I started the interview there, with the way Layton and his extraordinary actors, had presented these young men not as cocky or entitled, but rather as almost painfully naïve and innocent. We moved on to whether or not Layton thought that this was a peculiarly American story; why he took the approach he did to telling it; and the impact of not having meaningful rites of passage has on young men.
We finished up with why Layton returns again and again to real life for inspiration for his art.
The film stars Barry Keoghan, Evan Peters, Blake Jenner, Jared Abrahamson, Udo Kier, and Ann Dowd. Layton directed from his own script, and previous work includes the endlessly intriguing documentary, THE IMPOSTER, about a grieving family and the young man who claims to be their long-lost son