Morris Discusses Terror and Humor
Controversial director of “Four Lions” speaks on realism, comedy, and terrorism in new film
“Four Lions,” British comedic heavyweight Christopher Morris’s first full feature-length film as a director, cuts through the hazy and foreign haughtiness of terrorism to expose a surprisingly realistic dose of comedy culled from real life.
Morris explains that one of his interests is the subject of terrorism, which inspired him to write the film. “The subject was interesting, but real life was the key, or the queue,” he said in an interview with The Crimson. “I didn’t set out to make anything, [I was] just trying to boost my knowledge… So, I was just doing some reading, and I kept finding things which were funny, and I thought, ‘This is the wrong place to find funny things.’”
One example Morris gives is of a group of Islamic militants in Yemen who attempted to bomb an American warship, but fail as their boat—filled with explosives—sinks near the beach. “That’s the story that really got me to realize that you can look at [terrorism] in a different way.”
Prior to directing, Morris established himself in the entertainment industry as a comedian, hosting several spoof news British television and radio shows including “On the Hour,” “I.T.,” “Brass Eye,” and the award-winning BBC2 comedy “The Day Today” for which he wrote and co-produced. In these productions, he confronted the language of news reporting and media hysteria with satire.
Although the subject of terrorism is still highly controversial, Morris maintains sensitivity to the issue while still creating a humorous film by keeping the comedy about real life. “Though the film is full of jokes, the jokes are not about the wrong things because that would be a different kind of plan. That’s how you hold on to the balance.” He adds, “You just keep your sense of perspective in mind in what you’re doing.”
“The stuff of comedy [deals] with tension, and character, and people disagreeing with each other when they almost agree and they have the biggest argument in the world—all those [funny] things which are familiar from everyday life don’t stop once you’re commissioning an act of terrorism,” he explains.
One of the chief sources of comedy in this film stems from the remarkable cohesion of the cast. Morris describes the strength of the individual cast members and their interactions while they lived together for five weeks during filming, jokingly saying, “We could have turned them into a cell and I could have gone in there with some angry words and rousing aspirations and they could blow something up.”
“They all hung out together and cooked their relationships, and in a similar way with what happens in these kinds of groups, they became a really tight group in a weird world in themselves where the outside world mattered much less than the inside,” says Morris. “I’ve radicalized them all.”