Rick Alverson

Professor at The European Graduate School / EGS.


Rick Alverson (b.1971 in Spokane, USA) is a film director and musician.

He has directed five feature films to date. His first, The Builder, was released in 2010 and has been described by Alverson as “an American existential portrait that explores the gulf between the idea of a thing and the thing itself. Having set off to the New York countryside to construct a reproduction of the earliest of American cape houses, the protagonist, an Irish immigrant carpenter, finds himself overcome by an inexplicable fatigue. Debts and expectations mount alongside the crudest and most naive of deceptions, that of both self and family. As exaggerations become lies, the chasm grows and the Builder finds himself confronted by the unnerving ambivalence of the world around him”[1].

Also Alverson’s second feature film, New Jerusalem (2011), stars an Irish immigrant in the US and focuses on the relationship between the Afghanistan veteran and his evangelic co-worker: “A meditation on friendship, human need and frailty, New Jerusalemexplores the allure and limitations of modern utopian belief.”[2]

In contrast, the subsequent comedy-drama The Comedy (2012), portraying a New Yorker waiting for his rich father to pass away, “is a tale of the hazards of a cloistered life, of lives that take for granted their good fortune. Wealth, even the relative wealth of the American middle class and its increasingly unlimited set of options, does not ultimately produce freedom – there is always the basic limitation of the animal that we are, waiting in the wings”[3]The Comedy was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival.

Following this, Alverson directed the first Episode of the series The Sixth Year (2013), “an art world drama series in five episodes, which re-interprets the format of the TV series. Set in the New York art world, it stages the backstage and theatricalizes the social interactions and power games, the aspirations, passions, and everyday realities of the field.”[4]

Alverson’s fourth feature, Entertainment (2015), portrays a comedian and won him the Junior Jury Award – “Environment Is Quality of Life” Prize at Locarno Film Festival as well as nominations for the Golden Leopard (also at Locarno) and for the Audience Award at Sundance Film Festival.

After the short film William Eggleston: Musik (2017), featuring the photographer’s first album, Alverson’s latest film The Mountain(2018) depicts a young man in the early 1950s who begins to work for a traveling lobotomist. As Alverson describes the film: “The characters are loosely based on Walter Freeman who invented lobotomy based on a Portuguese procedure called leucotomy. He performed it on thousands without a licence to perform surgery. […] It was done to pacify segments of the population, and that was partially out of ignorance, partly out of arrogance. It was predominantly white males that were imposing this segregation.[…] I think there’s an artificial quality to the film, to the blocking staging, the shooting, even the performances ultimately. I want people to deal with the material of the film. It’s silly but something I hate in cinema is when the author speaks through the characters. It’s not the character speaking, it’s the author.”[5]

Nominated for the Golden Lion, The Mountain won the Smithers Foundation Award – Special Mention at the Venice Film Festival 2018.

In addition, Alverson has directed several music videos for artists including Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Gregor Samsa or Sharon Van Etten. With the band Spokane he released five albums and, together with the singer Emilie Rex, recorded a self-titled debut album “Lean Year” (2017).

[1] https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1…

[2] https://filmmakermagazine.com/…

[3] https://filmmakermagazine.com/…

[4] http://www.ludlow38.org/thesix…

[5] https://www.theupcoming.co.uk/…