Part of a project deemed “Triple Theo,” Interview is one of three of Netherlands-born, Theo Van Gogh’s films being remade in English with a New York narrative setting.
Interview’s lineage of inherent controversy was not born from Van Gogh’s relation to the painter, but rather his own acts of rebellion as filmmaker, journalist, atheist and free speech extremist.
Theo Van Gogh was assassinated in 2004. Shot eight times before having his throat cut to near decapitation and then postmarked with a five-page note attached to his body with two daggers. It comes as no surprise he built a life around challenging the often blindly accepted fundamentals of society. His incredibly recent death fueled many of his artistic collaborators to carry on his fervent wish of remaking select films in English.
With Sienna Miller and Buscemi on board, America gets a much-needed dose of “art” film, a commodity still used abroad to instigate curiosity and social change. Chosing between three films, Buscemi hand-selected Interview to direct with artistic guidance from Van Gogh’s original crew, including his cinematographer and assistant. Buscemi handpicked Sienna Miller as well, after glimpsing the real quirks, humor and intelligence of her personality in a behind-the-scenes interview for her past film, Layer Cake.
In Interview, Buscemi plays Pierre Peders, a distinguished journalist known for his foreign correspondence and frontline war coverage. Peders’ newest assignment comes as an unpleasant surprise when he’s sent to interview pop TV and film star beauty Katya (Miller). After a series of eye rolls and disinterest on both parties’ accounts, they part with disdain, only to be quickly reunited when Peders’ is slightly injured in a car accident, literally caused by Katya’s striking good looks.
“They’re more alike than they are different,” Buscemi states, of the failed bond that is repeatedly attempted to be forged between the two main characters. “They’re both really damaged people and that prevents them from solidifying that connection.”
While the film’s broad themes examine the relationship between celebrity, journalism and what today’s public perceives as noteworthy news, it’s the relationship between Pierre and Katya that gives this film its soul. Buscemi puts the period where a question marked used to be, as he proves politically and socially potent concerns can be entertaining and engaging.
The majority of the film revolves around Katya’s drool-worthy, expansive art loft, used as an aesthetic spoon full of sugar for the often-uncomfortable interactions explored between Katya and Pierre. Their unclassifiable dynamic walks a shaky line between a father-daughter relationship and that of two lovers, traits of intimacy are perverted with misdirected sexual advances, deeply rooted emotional trauma and an excessive amount of wine and cigarettes.
With steadfast focus, Buscemi embraced his dual role as starring actor and director. Undeterred by the film’s premiere to its Dutch crowd, Buscemi did not hesitate to take on the possibly volatile conditions surrounding the film’s history, as well as the challenge of combining his outside eye as director with his deeply entrenched mentality as actor.
“He liked to shoot the close-ups first to get that sense of spontaneity … all those mistakes and awkwardness,” Buscemi recounts of a Van Gogh particularity.
The original Interview was shot in only five days, and Buscemi laughs empathetically at falling short with his two weeks of rehearsal and nine days of shooting (still obscenely fast for a feature length film). This pop fly, expedited tactic let the reality of the film to seep in from unpredictable sources, allowing room for improvisation and creating an effectively tangible amount of character uncertainty.
There is an unmistakably Warholian art aesthetic in Interview that Buscemi reinvents to reflect complexity and depth, as opposed to Warhol’s preoccupations with iconicity and voids. The art of real life banality is taken to new heights, as dialogue steeped in layered meaning acts as the driving force of narrative action.
There are no car chases, blood baths or gratuitous sex scenes in this film; there is however the incredible realization that you don’t need them.
Interview releases in select theaters July 13.