Horror director Ari Aster calls his new movie ‘Beau Is Afraid’ a ‘Jewish Lord of the Rings’

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It’s like a Jewish ‘Lord of the Rings,’ but he’s just going to his mom’s house.”

Joaquin Phoenix in an animated sequence in the “Beau Is Afraid” trailer. (Screenshot from YouTube via JTA)

That’s how director Ari Aster, known for his acclaimed horror movies “Hereditary” and “Midsommar,” described his new film, “Beau Is Afraid,” in a behind-the-scenes video released last week.

Aster, who works with A24, the same studio behind this year’s Oscars darling “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” said in a 2018 interview that he is a “proud Jew” who “doesn’t practice very actively,” and his previous films have not contained any Jewish content.

But he also said in the 2018 interview with the Jewish Chronicle of London that he thought his “pessimistic outlook” on life could be partly inspired by the legacy of Jewish trauma. He added that he is interested in the work of the Jewish father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud.

In promoting “Beau Is Afraid,” which hits theaters April 21, he’s leaning into his work’s under-the-surface Jewish themes.

“Guilt?” he said in a New York Times interview. “Isn’t that just a huge part of life? For me, the film is like a big Jewish comedy, and that’s the first thing to go in the pot.”

The film, which Aster says he has developed for over a decade, involves a middle-aged man who attempts to visit his mother, who has been injured by a fallen chandelier. Beau seems overwhelmed by anxiety, and the visit turns into a supernatural journey, full of sci-fi elements, horror and even animated sequences.

“I built out something that was this comic, Freudian odyssey, very episodic and, I thought, very funny,” he said in the Times interview.

“If you pumped a 10-year-old full of Zoloft and had him get your groceries, that’s like this movie,” he added in the video from A24, the studio behind Aster’s works and other acclaimed films such Adam Sandler’s Diamond District thriller “Uncut Gems.”

—Gabe Friedman | JTA

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