Web Feature

PATRICK KIEFFER
in conversation with BENNINGTON REVIEW

 

RACHEL YANKU

Considering the form you used in writing “The Keanu Reeves Revenge Film John Wick as Told Through Its Parenthetical Subtitle Sound Descriptions,” are you trying to retell the story of the film John Wick, or is this a critical commentary, or is it more of your reaction to the rhythm of the film? How did this piece come about?

PATRICK KIEFFER

I’ve been interested in subtitles for a long time, by the complications they bring, the same way any form of translation does. To watch a movie with subtitles, for a hearing audience that is, is to experience the original and its translation simultaneously, so the ways in which the text supports, undermines, or expands the film become part of the experience. I think I wanted to do something with John Wick because it’s such a sequence-driven film. Its script is so minimal, just providing the basic emotional and logistical foundations needed for the audience to be on-board for the extended, merciless killing. As for how the piece is read, I liked the idea of it being read as an alternative experience of the film by someone who has already seen it, but also as its own telling for someone coming to it without context. I liked the idea that it could be read many ways, actually. And of course, in addition to this piece as literary experiment, it's also a pretty ridiculous thing, and I hope readers can enjoy it that way as well.

RACHEL YANKU

What do you think of the movie John Wick?

PATRICK KIEFFER

It’s perfect and absurd and sweet and trashy. I loved it when I first saw it but also felt a little queasy after. I’m usually conflicted when watching violent movies, and it's closely related to my discomfort with masculinity in general. It gets even messier for me when it’s a revenge film, where the violence is firmly linked to some great loss, in this case a dog that functions as an emotional proxy for his murdered wife. I appreciate that it’s at least one small step removed from the trope of a woman’s suffering or death as nothing more than the impetus for more male violence, but then the dog lover in me is mad they had to kill the dog! At the same time, it may be the only movie I’ve ever forgiven for killing the dog.

RACHEL YANKU

Because you mention the actor Keanu Reeves in the title of the story along with the character’s name, John Wick, you are talking both about the person and the person as an actor. Is this something that is interesting to you when watching film, the fact that you are simultaneously watching two people, one fictional and one real?

PATRICK KIEFFER

Yes, absolutely! Maybe even three: John Wick, Keanu Reeves and the public discourse that is Keanu Reeves. Like their films, heroic male characters speak to--and typically reinforce--cultural ideals of masculinity and power and violence. With an actor like Keanu Reeves, it’s all the more fascinating to me because of the many ways people tap into him, from the sad Keanu meme to red pill/Matrix misogyny. He’s one of the most celebrated American action stars and I think I heard he’s also a practicing Zen Buddhist. Maybe that’s just part of the mythology of Keanu (I’ve never actually looked into it), but what a fun interplay between actor, person, role, and celebrity!

RACHEL YANKU

Who is your favorite actor or actress?

PATRICK KIEFFER

I think Kathryn Hahn is really under-recognized, as an actor and a comedian. I also think the South Korean actor Kang-ho Song is incredible. He does a lot of action movies but brings such a gentle and funny humanity to the work. My favorite actors are always those that can make me laugh and cry, especially at the same time.

RACHEL YANKU

Do you think one could approach writing about any film through its parenthetical subtitle sound descriptions, or do you think the ability to do so with John Wick has something to do with it genre?

PATRICK KIEFFER

The long action sequences with little to no dialogue are what drew me to John Wick, in terms of what playing with the subtitles would look like. Not sure how that would look with other films, but I was happy with how naturally it worked with the simple concept of the piece, with how the pairing of form and subject played out.

 


PATRICK KIEFFER is a writer and teacher in New York City.


RACHEL YANKU is an editorial assistant at Bennington Review.



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