Men Director Alex Garland Doesn't Like To Make Obvious Winks And Nods To His Inspirations

Every great filmmaker will take inspiration from those who came before them. Quentin Tarantino serves as a great example of someone who is clearly inspired by the work of many artists, yet uses lessons of other masters of cinema to make something that feels entirely unique. Alex Garland, who film lovers likely know from his directorial efforts "Ex Machina" and "Annihilation," is very much a man who has built one heck of an identity as a filmmaker. Garland is making his welcome return to the big screen with a new movie, "Men," which hits theaters later this month. But as much as he may be influenced by previous movies and the filmmakers behind them, he is very much not a fan of directly referencing other works in his films.

Alex Garland doesn't make movies about other movies

During a "Men" roundtable attended by /Film, Garland discussed influences on his work and the nature of how those are referenced in his movies. While he's happy to acknowledge that movies like "The Wicker Man" and "Evil Dead" may have inspired elements of his latest film, they weren't directly referenced, at least not intentionally. And that's just not something he's ever interested in doing as a filmmaker in general. As he told assembled journalists: 

"It just came up in the interview I just did, where someone brought up The Wicker Man. I've seen The Wicker Man like three times and I know the film very well. And so that will sort of roll around in the back of my head, even if I'm aware of it rolling around or not. But not really. I tend, honestly, I try to avoid making movies about other movies. I'm aware that other movies will filter into the thinking, and sometimes I'll think, there's a shot in Men which is like a first-person running shot towards a house, and even as we were setting up, I thought, 'Oh yeah, Evil Dead,' right? So that happens. But I'm not doing knowing nudges and winks towards the audience. It's more like just straight-up influence, which is borderline theft, you could say, or unconscious theft."

Essentially, Garland attributes any perceived nods to other films in his work as mere influence. Or, to put it his way, "unconscious theft." This implies that he may not even realize that he is seemingly referencing another film, even if that appears to be the case in the final product.

Awareness, not direct references

Speaking a bit further on the topic at hand, Garland elaborated on the nature of referencing other movies within his work. For him, it's really about making "Men," and his other directorial efforts such as "Annihilation," about something rather than references to other works of art that might have been trying to say something poignant themselves:

"I always think filmmaking is a really broad church. I know a lot of movies are incredibly keen to be referential and knowing to other movies, and I get that, and it's fine, and I'm not criticizing it, but it's not something I want to do. So I'll make films with an awareness of other films, but I'm trying to make the movie about something in a way not to do with cinema, if that makes sense. So something as it were in the real world, I guess."

To some, this may sound like splitting hairs but the results speak for themselves. To what degree one personally enjoys Garland's films is one thing, but they most certainly come off as feeling very original with a distinctive voice. That much is certain. And they do, indeed, have something to say. "Men" is absolutely no exception in that department and it is sure to inspire a lot of conversation, even if some moments feel like unintentional references to other genre classics.

"Men" is set to hit theaters on May 20, 2022.