There’s A Real-Life Horror Story Hidden In Luther: The Fallen Sun

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No one would ever accuse the BBC detective series “Luther” of being fluffy and light-hearted, but the film, “Luther: The Fallen Sun,” is exceptionally bleak. The film, which sees detective John Luther (Idris Elba) try to capture a vicious serial killer named David Robey (Andy Serkis), is somehow even darker than the television series. In fact, there’s even a real-life horror story wrapped into the film through a scene that takes place in front of the Anatomical Crucifixion, an ancient and rather disturbing work of art hanging in London’s Royal Academy of the Arts. In a scene near the beginning of the film, Robey visits the Anatomical Crucifixion and sort of stares at it while he discusses his plans (via voiceover) for John Luther. Like the depiction of a flayed man before him, Robey wants Luther metaphorically crucified and laid bare, his layers peeled away for everyone to see. 

In an exclusive interview with /Film‘s Hannah Shaw-Williams, director Jamie Payne and writer Neil Cross shared some of the history behind the unsettling display and how it ended up being a major fixture in the first part of the film. Sometimes art hits us in profound ways, and the Anatomical Crucifixion clearly made an impact on the “Luther” team. 

A Slightly Surreal Experience

The scene, which happens in the first five minutes of the film, was apparently shot as a part of additional photography because Cross went on a walk around London and saw the brutal work. He lives in New Zealand and was stuck away from most of the production during COVID lockdown, but once he was able to traverse London, he made the most of it:

“[…] I came back the first opportunity that I could. And I brought my son down from Manchester. And he and I went for a very, very, very long walk and talk over the face of London. We walked probably 15 miles all in. But the central moment of that walk was entering that gallery and looking at that piece of art.

And I have a very powerful, very emotional memory of standing, looking at it with my son who I love and feeling that I’d discovered something new in London that I’d never seen before. Something that belonged therefore to him and me, which was a function of the world opening up again and allowing me to travel again and to be with him again and to be with Jamie again and Luther again. So when we got the chance, we put it in.”

It’s kind of funny that such a sweet moment between father and son ended up being in “The Fallen Sun,” and that it’s all tied to such a grotesque image, but that kind of tracks when it comes to “Luther.” It also pairs well with Robey, whose method of destroying his victims is to reveal their secrets. But just how did the Anatomical Crucifixion come to be, anyway? 

Art Imitates Death

The figure, which depicts a crucified man with his skin removed, is pretty horrific in and of itself, but the means of its creation are pretty awful. Payne and Cross explained that the man was James Legg, who was hanged for murder in 1801. Because you could buy the bodies of deceased criminals back then for medical experiments, anatomical drawings, and more, the artist was able to purchase Legg’s corpse, crucify him before rigor mortis set in, and then take a life cast of the body. That wasn’t entirely it, though, as Payne explained:

“Yeah, they flayed him, as they’d read Jesus was. And they crucified him in the way that we understand the Romans crucified. And they took a life cast from that body. And that is what that piece of art is. That’s extraordinary. So out of that lovely emotional walk that Neil had with his son, ‘Luther’ came back with that detail.”

It makes sense for a fictional serial killer to have a fascination with such a grotesque work of art, and TV and movie killers have been obsessed with intense art for as long as the medium has existed. Like Francis Dolarhyde and William Blake’s “The Great Red Dragon” in the “Hannibal” franchise or even the real-life Charles Manson’s obsession with The Beatles’ “White Album,” great beauty and great brutality sometimes go hand-in-hand. 

“Luther: The Fallen Sun” is now streaming on Netflix. 

Read this next: The Best TV Episodes Of 2022, Ranked

The post There’s A Real-Life Horror Story Hidden In Luther: The Fallen Sun appeared first on /Film.

/Film – There’s A Real-Life Horror Story Hidden In Luther: The Fallen Sun
Author: Danielle Ryan
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March 11, 2023

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