Richard Ayoade is most famously known for his perpetually awkward but constantly amusing role as the computer technician Maurice Moss in THE IT CROWD. He is one of the most deferential and self-deprecating men in the entertainment industry who has directed two spectacular films. They differ significantly in tone, but are equally captivating. He is a master of deadpan humour, and his beautifully awkward charm and intelligence is well worth a watch in interviews (despite his total aversion to them).
Ayoade does not think of himself as an actor, quoted as saying “Just because you’re in something doesn’t mean you’re an actor. I have a limited range and have worked largely for friends. It’s just not something I particularly think of myself as having a skill-set at.” Ayoade found his start whilst at university, becoming a member of the Cambridge Footlights, a dramatic comedy group whose notable alumni include John Cleese and Stephen Fry to name just a few. Alongside the fame he gained from THE IT CROWD, Ayoade can also be seen in THE MIGHTY BOOSH and GARTH MARENGHI’S DARK PLACE. Rather than being in front of the camera, the director’s chair is where he feels most at ease. Before embarking on his first two feature films, Ayoade has a long history of directing music videos for the likes of the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and Vampire Weekend.
Ayoade first gave us the darkly funny yet charming and quirky story of adolescence, SUBMARINE, featuring original songs from Alex Turner. Based on Joe Dunthorne’s novel, SUBMARINE tells the story of Oliver, a fifteen-year-old boy whose two main aims are to save his parents’ marriage through a careful system of intervention (he pens love notes and monitors their sex life through observing the dimmer switch in their bedroom) and to lose his virginity before he turns sixteen. Neurotic tendencies coupled with melancholic wit permeate this antihero’s tale. Oliver visualises his life as a film, constantly referring to camera angles and narrating his bizarre musings on life through anxious voiceover.
Deadpan humour works its magic in this film, which brings something new to the typical teen comedy. This being that the “kids aren’t gorgeous, the hero isn’t heroic, and the object of desire has many reasons why she is not desirable.” It is uniquely strange but totally accessible in combining the dark with the playful, with nods to Wes Anderson, François Truffaut and Woody Allen.
For his second feature film, Ayoade adapted a novella of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, THE DOUBLE. The story of Simon (Jesse Eisenberg), unremarkable in every way until his doppelganger, James (also Jesse Eisenberg) appears. Where Simon is awkward, forgettable, and shy, James is smooth, popular and confident. He is the exact opposite of Simon’s beige personality and existence. To add insult to injury, no one even notices the likeness between them. Ayoade’s execution is perfect, we find ourselves in an unsettling dystopian universe where the characters never see the sunlight. In describing the universe of the film he says, “it’s like the future imagined by someone in the past who got it wrong. So the world of the film never existed and never will exist but it has that feeling of a bad utopian dream soured. Like in the 50s, when they thought everyone would have home computers but they would be half the size of a room. It’s as if that came to pass.”
You undergo a stimulating sensory experience whilst watching the film, the absurdist nature being highlighted in the production design. Ayoade takes great care in perfecting sound and lighting to enhance the formidable and striking feel of the movie. When watching this film, you as the audience oscillate constantly between unease and fascination.
We here at ÉCU appreciate the quirky and creative, and Richard Ayoade is most certainly both of these things. His films are well worth a watch, as is pretty much anything he has ever starred in. So we recommend having a watch of his films and then submitting your own to us here at ÉCU film festival. Our early bird deadline is this Sunday the 23rd November 2014!