THURSDAY MAY 12th
Lynne Ramsay © CR
The only British director in Competition, Lynne Ramsay has adapted a book by US novelist Lionel Shriver centred on the torments of adolescence. With We Need to Talk about Kevin, the film-maker plunges back into a subject that she has already dealt with in her movies.
Childhood disillusionment and its consequences on adolescence are themes for cinematic reflection that are dear to Lynne Ramsay’s heart. Her short films Small Deaths (1996) and Gasman (1998), both of which won the Prix du Jury at Cannes, did not just reveal the Scottish film-maker’s talent to the eyes of the Seventh Art. These first movies also bespoke her deep interest in these issues, which have continued to mark her films.
This tendency was confirmed especially in 1999 with The Ratcatcher, her first feature film. The film, selected for Un Certain Regard, related the difficult existence of a teenager cut off from the family environment by a burdensome secret.
With We Need to Talk about Kevin, the British film-maker pursues her aim of decoding the desperation of youth though, this time, from the other side of the mirror. Here she focuses on parental guilt, a sentiment that confronts Eva (Tilda Swinton) when her son Kevin (Ezra Miller), aged 16, kills seven people at his school. She attempts to explain his act by remembering significant moments of their life together.
Adapted from a novel by the American writer Lionel Shriver, the movie echoes the Columbine tragedy, made into a film by Gus Van Sant in 2003 (Elephant, Palme d’or). Note also the participation of Jonny Greenwood, one of the guitarists in the English group Radiohead, who produced the music for the film.
Scottish director Lynne Ramsay and the cast of her movie We Need To Talk About Kevin, selected in Competition, spoke to the press this Thursday morning. Highlights.
Lynne Ramsay discussed the genesis of her film:
”I normally get quite engrossed when I embark on making a film, but to deal with a story of this kind, I thought I should take take time to let the project mature. I always imagine my films in very visual manner, in my head. It was a real challenge for me because it was the first time that I had decided on this kind of structure.”
Tilda Swinton talked about the solitude of her character Eva::
“For a mother,the feeling of loneliness is sometimes very real. Being a mother can be very violent, very bloody. The idea of giving birth to a human being who incarnates that same violence is terrifying. This film is a voyage where we study the emotions of a mother and the breakdown of family relationships.”
Ezra Miller spoke about the personality of Kevin:
“I’m 18 years old and I fear I might be linked to Kevin in some way. The idea horrifies me. I think evil lives in each of us. And I delved deep inside myself to find that evil, to play Kevin.”
John C. Reilly talked about Franklin, Kevin’s father in the film:
“Kevin manipulates his father and takes advantage of his dad’s unconditional love for him to combat his mother. Franklin feels the scorn of his son, but like any father, his love comes out on top. He tries to do his best to make sure that everything goes smoothly in the family.”.
Lynne Ramsay on the movie’s violence:
“I didn’t want to show the massacre, not only because I didn’t want to film something so terribly violent, but also to preserve the point of view of the mother, who was only able to imagine the scene. As for the violence in Kevin, it can be compared to the violence in the world”.
Gus Van Sant opens Un Certain Regard with a movie dedicated to youth and love. Restless is the fifth feature film by the US film-maker to appear in the Official Selection. His movie Elephant won the Palme d’or in 2003.
His new film relates a tale of young love that is graceful and tragic. But, unlike Elephant or Paranoid Park, the drama here contains a spark of happiness. Enoch and Annabel each have to face up to dealing with a personal ordeal. Enoch has just lost his parents in a car accident; Annabel is suffering from terminal cancer. But the forcefulness of their encounter, their complicity and the love that unites them enable them to transform their anger and fear and face their destiny with humour and radiance. The two heroes are played by Henry Hopper, the son of Dennis Hopper, in his very first movie role, and Mia Wasikowska, Tim Burton’s marvellous Alice.
Initially written for the theatre, Restless was taken up by the actress Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village, Manderlay). She convinced the play’s author Jason Lew, a friend from her university days, to adapt the play for the cinema. Thrilled with the resulting screenplay, she decided to produce the movie in association with her father Ron Howard. They quickly decided that Gus Van Sant should be the director, on account of his sensitivity, his sense of poetry and his taste for passionate, original characters.
Since his first film in 1985, Gus Van Sant has alternated between formal, characteristic movies based on his own screenplays (My Own Private Idaho, Elephant, Paranoid Park) and more classically constructed movies written by others (Good Will Hunting, Harvey Milk). In Restless, he pursues this second vein, while nonetheless continuing to explore his preferred themes.
Sept. 16 (Sony Pictures Classics)
Gus Van Sant
Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk
“Seen any good funerals lately?” asks one funeral junky to another in Restless, a terminally cloying and mushy-headed romance between a cancer-stricken young woman and an orphaned teenager whose closest confidant is the ghost of a kamikazi pilot. The most banal and indulgent of Gus Van Sant’s periodic studies of troubled kids, this agonizingly treacly tale comes off like an indie version of Love Story except with worse music. Gullible teen girls represent the target audience for this Sony Pictures Classics release, as most people of voting age will blanch at such a cutesy depiction of adolescent angst.
Fascinated by animals and the natural order of things, Annabel idolizes Charles Darwin and puts on a madly positive, enthusiastic front, knowing she needs to experience whatever she can of life in a very short time. She can therefore be excused for being a bit pushy with Enoch, who has basically shut down after his parents died and is difficult to bring out of his shell.
Enoch seems content, in fact, to converse mostly with his buddy Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), a ghost who dresses in the uniform of Japanese World War II suicide pilots and also discusses the details of the seppuku ritual with the death-obsessed young American.
Still, the flesh-and-blood Annabel finally manages to exert a greater influence on Enoch when, after a date at the morgue and being chased by cretins on Halloween, they evolve from confidants to lovers in a mild encounter that possesses a surprisingly weak charge.
Van Sant can be good at creating private worlds inhabited by sensitive and/or disturbed characters, but here the individuals are simply not very interesting. The project started as a group of short plays and vignettes by NYU student Jason Lew, a fellow classmate of co-producer Bryce Dallas Howard who subsequently worked them into a play and, ultimately, a script. It still feels sketchy, however, neither deeply developed nor very nuanced.
With her Mia Farrow haircut and winsome air, Wasikowska is a welcome presence as always, but one wishes she had more levels to play than brave and resolutely upbeat. In his film debut, Hopper, son of Dennis Hopper, is tousel-haired and cute but struggles to bring dimension and nuance to Enoch’s balkiness.
Shot by Harris Savides in the Portland, Ore., area, Restless has a rather washed-out look, especially in the darker interiors. Danny Elfman’s score is uncharacteristically sappy, emphasizing all that’s most annoying in the material.
Venue: Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard, opening night
Opens: September 16 (Sony Pictures Classics)
Production: Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer Prods.
Director: Gus Van Sant
Screenwriter: Jason Lew
Cast: Henry Hopper, Mia Wasikowska, Ryo Kase, Schuyler Fisk, Jane Adams, Chin Han, Lusia Strus
Producers: Brian Grazer, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ron Howard
Executive producers: Eric Black, David Allen Cress, Frank Mancuso Jr.
Director of photography: Harris Savides
Production designer: Anne Ross
Costume designer: Danny Glicker
Editor: Elliot Graham
Music: Danny Elfman
Julia Leigh is taking part in the Festival de Cannes with Sleeping Beauty, her first film, in Competition and in the running for the Caméra d’Or. A feature film for which the Australian director, author of two novels, has also written the script.
With degrees both in literature and in law, Julia Leigh very soon swayed toward literature. Her first novel, published in 1999, The Hunter, won numerous prizes and was adapted to film by Daniel Nettheim. Her second book, Disquiet, which also attracted considerable attention, came out in 2008, the year the writer wrote the script for Sleeping Beauty.
She wrote the first draft in only ten days. It is the story of a student who needed money, and who became involved in a strange network of sleeping beauties. She falls asleep. She wakes up. And it is as if nothing had happened, she has no recollection of what men do to her at night. It is a tale with multiple literary allusions. “I knew the fairy tale. I knew that King Solomon had young virgins brought to him from all over his realm to sleep alongside him.” The director had also read the short stories by Yasunari Kawabata and Gabriel Garcia Marquez that evoked the same theme. “The film is a response to all these things.”
But for Julia Leigh, the task of writing did not end with the script. “To explain how I saw it, I wrote a long note of my intentions in which I stated precisely everything that would appear on the screen, scene by scene.” A working method that seems logical for the Australian director, who adds, “In a sense, my literary world is my cinematographic world. It is one and the same thing.”
Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra are presenting their first feature film, Trabalhar Cansa (Hard Labour), in Un Certain Regard and they are in the running for the Caméra d’Or. The two Brazilian filmmakers have worked together continuously for a decade and they have developed a common style.
“Trabalhar Cansa (Hard Labour) is the fruit of a decade of collaboration,” the two filmmakers confide. In fact, Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, who will present their first feature film in Un Certain Regard, have known each other since their first year in film school at the University of Sao Paulo. Since then, they have created a series of collaborative works, from their first trial videos to their first feature film. Trabalhar Cansa tells the story of how Helena’s dream of opening a small grocery shop came true. This proved to be a difficult project because her husband lost his job at the same time, products went missing from the shop and a strange smell pervaded the premises, while a spot on the wall kept growing larger. A heavy feeling weighed down on everyone who came into the shop.
The story bears the mark of something unwholesome, rooted in daily life and the domestic world of the characters. “We wanted to explore the way that the family is affected when the roles are reversed in a way that upsets people’s habits.” From the very start of their collaboration, the two filmmakers have enjoyed creating a dialogue with the horror film and fantasy genre. “We are looking for the relationship between the subject and his or her own morbid aspects, instead of just applying simple clichés of the horror film to our work.”