Guest of Honour, premiered in Venice, will premiere tonight at 9:30 p.m. at the Sava Centre. Director Atom Egoyan and lead actor David Thewlis are the guests of the 48th FEST, and we present to you today's press conference interview.
- Guest of Honour is Atom Egoyan's latest film, it builds a lot on his previous films. In this film, he deals with the crimes, the punishment, the suffering of the characters. This time he chooses to do so in a non-linear narrative and very often changes the narrator. How did you construct that story?
Atom Egoyan: The story is constructed on the basis of how our mind works, how we torment ourselves with certain ideas, expectations. The central conflict is between a father and a daughter accusing her father of having an affair when she was a child, and her father never explained this to her. Now that he can explain to her, she does not trust his version of events, and that creates a gap between them. David's character lives in an unusual position, always wondering if he could have done anything, and at the very end of the film we see him smile and realize that there is a way to handle this situation. What we see throughout the film are the consequences of the decision he makes in the end.
-There are many references to your previous work, I must note the similarity to the film The Sweet Hereafter. I tried to remember if since the film Fatal Attraction someone was as cruel to a rabbit as you.
Atom Egoyan: (laughs) Thanks for catching the reference to Fatal Attraction, I wanted to make homage to that film more than to my earlier work. Honestly, I never try to make references to my films. I think it is dangerous for directors to start quoting themselves. The first film I made 35 years ago also has a scene where a stranger gives a speech at a party that is not really for him.
- In this film, this is the character David Thewlis interprets. David, we have seen you in different roles, what is crucial in the script before accepting it, and what specifically in this film was crucial in accepting the role?
David Thewlis: The main thing I am looking for is that the role is completely different from what I have done before, I do not like to repeat myself. When I first considered becoming an actor, I watched John Hurt's career, he was a great role model to me, he never played the same role twice. For anyone who knows my work, they will see that I have never played something like this, this is a very quiet character, I have never played a non-verbal hero without relying on dialogue. This role is far more successful than my role in the film Fatal Attraction 2, not many people know about that film. One of the worst things I have ever done, Atom, if you had known I acted in that film, you would not have hired me.
Atom Egoyan: Well, what connects Guest of Honour and Fatal Attraction is that David has starred in both films (laughs).
-The thing that connects all the characters in Guest of Honour is honesty. We know that there is a lack of appreciation for honesty, we are living in an age of post-truth, and honesty is in the lead role in your film.
Atom Egoyan: It is very difficult for this hero to be honest because he is blocked by the reaction of his daughter he does not understand, he is not clear about this situation. It is more of a question for David, do you think he is honest?
David Thewlis: To be honest I never thought about that. For me, what connects all the characters is that they all somehow transgress.
Atom Egoyan: I think the key thing David brings to this film, which I am grateful for, in the last scenes with his daughter, is when he says: ‘I was the guest of honour,’ and the daughter says something that will hurt him: ‘You are responsible for what I have become.’ The reaction he has to that sentence is beautiful, honesty of David's performance and the camera's ability to capture this is the essence of the film I am most excited about. It was a great privilege to work with him, for so long I wanted us to work together.
- Atom, how do you choose a theme for a film, considering that you dedicate a few years to it?
Atom Egoyan: There is always something worth exploring in a story that I also discover during filming. I wrote many scripts but did not film them because I knew exactly what they were about and I started repeating myself, I had already explored that terrain. For me, the question is how to leave the topic open, how working with actors will reveal things that the script has not answered. Characters often try to solve a dilemma, a problem in their lives, and when they think they have found a solution, that solution often only exacerbates the problem, and they become more and more driven by the desperation to get out of the trap they have fallen into.
-David, has any role changed you so far as a person on a personal plane?
David Thewlis: Yes, everything I have ever done, and especially the role in the Mike Lee's film Naked. It was an improvisation, which inevitably brings the actor closer to the director and the audience because there is no script. Mike Lee relies 100 percent on the character research that comes before filming. That role changed me on a daily basis and it affected me mentally. I have just finished writing a novel that deals with an actor who is so engrossed in the role that it has psychological consequences. I am not saying that the role in that film mentally damaged me, for legal reasons of course (laughs).
Atom Egoyan: David is an exceptional writer, he wrote a fantastic novel before this one. I was privileged to work with someone who is also a great writer in addition to his work, and I am looking forward to his new novel, I read it and it is truly great.
-How did you choose the music for the film? In dramaturgical terms, it contributes a lot to the plot.
Atom Egoyan: All the restaurants that the main character goes to are restaurants of different national cuisines, he moves in a sea of other cultures, so I wanted it to be reflected in music as well. Everything comes from all sides, and his character is a stranger, therefore this was an unusual mosaic of Canada that I wanted to present. It is a country made up of many conflicting and encountering parts, which becomes dark humor in some ways, when the hero becomes confused by it all. When he goes to an Indian restaurant, for example, the music is adapted to the ambience in which it is located, but sometimes it is brought to the absurd, there is no connection of picture and sound, there is no logic other than the idea of creating a new identity from all these parts. For me, the funniest part is when they eventually have to organize a party at an Armenian restaurant that he might come to. They fail to find enough Armenians, so they have to bring in Arabs too, part of the speech is in Arabic and part in Armenian, so he would believe that this is a real party. It must look authentic even though it is completely fake.