The Films That Influenced Edoardo Vitaletti’s ‘The Last Thing Mary Saw’

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The Last Thing Mary Saw is now streaming exclusively on Shudder.

The full list of films that influenced Edoardo Vitaletti’s The Last Thing Mary Saw can be found here.

It is hard for me to watch movies when I am writing and/or preparing to make one. The greatness of an individual work can be so seductive, to the point that it makes me wonder “why not do it exactly like that?”. Or, worse: “why even pretend I could do better than that?”. I try to consume less content than usual, and yet…the beauty of a great movie is that it will stick with you, with or without your brain’s permission. So, here are some titles that I am ultimately glad would not leave me alone while I was making The Last Thing Mary Saw.
 
Few movies I have been recommending over the past four years quite as much as Thelma. A queer, supernatural thriller that explores the effects of an ultra-religious upbringing. Joachim Trier has a unique way of visualizing Thelma’s inner state, which greatly inspired the character of Mary in my movie. The Juniper Tree is another great piece of Nordic Cinema. It’s ominous, twisted, and very strange, and has this misunderstood central character, who is rather young but has never lived outside of darkness. There is something inescapable about her story, like a dark fable that just can’t end well. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is, in my opinion, another tale of inescapable fate. The way it ties a supernatural conspiracy with the traps of matriarchal lineage is frighteningly good, and very much an inspiration for me when I was writing Judith Robert’s character (the Matriarch) and the invisible “system” she protects at Mary’s cost. The Brood also explores lineage and trauma in a way that resonated a lot with me.
 
It may not resonate with the restricted tone of my movie, but The Blair Witch Project remains a masterclass in horror writing. In my opinion, a horror movie should scare you more for what it chooses not to show you, than for what it does. There is an evil witch in the woods. They talk about her all the time, she moves twigs and rocks and is always creeping up behind you…but you never see her. Brilliant. I also love Cure for how it’s able to withhold information from the audience. It explains that little bit that is necessary for you to understand what is happening, but not enough to make you feel comfortable. I love a good ambiguous ending, too.
 
On with more Northern European greatness…Cries and Whispers, Persona and The Silence. These movies absolutely break me. They are quiet, glacially-paced, and so turbulent. Bergman is a masterful visual storyteller, and his work probably gave us most of the visual references we ended up playing with for Mary. It also greatly inspired me to want to write much of the story in complete silence. Similarly somber in style but much lighter in topic, I’ve got to mention Babette’s Feast. My desire to include a supper scene so prominently in The Last Thing Mary Saw comes from the sheer adoration I have for this movie…even though the feast in Babette’s Feast does not end up like mine at all. My costume designer and I looked at this movie as a great example of how to externalize a character’s belief system through their choice of clothing.
 
Saying something too specific about Mulholland Drive feels unfair to how wonderfully cryptic it is. It is one of my favorites, and it taught me a lot about sound design and what it means to turn atmosphere into a character. Also, go watch The Spiral Staircase - it’s a great noir flick from the 40s, has some fantastic lighting and some of the creepiest, most unsettling peeping shots you will see. In Mary, we wanted to convey a sense that someone was always watching in secret, and this movie does that superbly.

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You can follow Edoardo Vitaletti on Twitter, and The Last Thing Mary Saw on Instagram.