Ken Russell on his films

“I think I’m never given credit for trying. I always try something. I go for something. I try to do things where there are bound to be mistakes, that I know will fail – but at least I went for something. In this country, you’re never given credit for having tried. They just say, you failed, and say that they knew it all along. Lizstomania is a case in point. Oh, they said, how vulgar, terrible, it absolutely denigrates the man… They dismissed completely the idea that, after the success of Tommy, I just thought I’d try to parallel Lizst’s life with that of a pop star, to perhaps win over a bigger audience for his music. From the reaction, you’d think I’d shown Christ as the Devil. They just wanted a refined film about the restrained way that they perceived Lizst…

Why can’t they just say, a good try, but a disaster – which I could quite understand. But no, they say, disgusting! Appalling! Trash! Tripe! The overreaction is bizarre. They just don’t want to see. They go to my pictures in dark glasses. Of course, being me, I always think that this time I’m going to make a film that they’re going to like, and all will be well in heaven. It never happens.

I just look upon every film as an experiment. Some work, some don’t, but if you don’t try, you never know. It would be tedious to make the same film every time. The one consistent thing that I do enjoy about the responses to my films is that no one quite knows how to respond. I mean, all my films are comedies of one kind or another – a comedy that’s against everything – logic, taste, reason – and even though they’ve got their dark side, really they’re just comedies. Audiences often don’t know how to react. They’re not in control, they’re not sure whether or laugh or cry. And they can get resentful because of that. Shit, they think, I’ve been had!”

— Ken Russell in BLITZ magazine, 1989