Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Interview (Theo Van Gogh, 2003) DVD Review

Secrets are revealed or performed in the conversational drama Interview (2003)

Forgive me, but this is going to get complicated. In his 2003 conversational picture Interview, Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (whose great-uncle was the artist Vincent) draws intriguing parallels between fiction and reality. Katja is a B-movie actress/soap star begging to be taken more seriously, as is Katja Schuurman, the actress Van Gogh chose to portray her. One scene sees the character of Katja watching herself on TV, commenting on how well she can cry on cue. It would be strange to imagine Schuurman sitting down to view Interview, watching herself watching herself crying. It's even stranger to us when she name-checks Theo Van Gogh in a tirade to aged political journalist Pierre (Pierre Bokma). The actors share a name with their character, and as such share an identity, or at least the perception of one. This makes for a fascinating subtextual essay on the nature of celebrity and the way we can never really know a person through the front cover of a magazine, despite our best efforts and profoundly misguided beliefs that in fact, yes, we can know a person that way. But the most rewarding thing about Interview is that you can enjoy the film without knowing any of this information, as viewers unacquainted with Dutch cinema won't.

Many complain that the film feels contrived and fake, but for a film about fakery, performance and lies that seems rather apt. In the same way that Orson Welles' F For Fake (1973) took the form of a documentary, Interview takes the form of a drama, when really it is a film about drama. I think that's why it feels, to an extent, uncinematic, showcasing no particular aesthetic style, despite the fact that Van Gogh can be classified as auteur. Katja and Pierre constantly lie to each other, even about lying. Katja could well be playing her character in front of Pierre but he, like us, would never know, because he's never seen any of her work (or has he?) They make a pact, to tell each other their deepest, darkest secrets, but how can such things be verifiable between strangers? What is the worth of somebody's word? "We are both mature adults" she says at one point. "You're a spoiled brat" he says at another. Contradiction, scheming, prejudice, fear, love and hate. These are all emotions bubbling under the unglamorous surface of Interview, a film whose title is even something of a lie, seeing as Pierre never completes his assignment. The ultimate contrivance is perhaps the ending, which feels wholly like a dramatic construction. That's because it is. What did you think you were watching?

The direction and editing are undetectable, except when they are drawing attention to parallel events - for example, when Katja retreats to her room for a private phone call and Pierre takes the opportunity to skim her diary. The performances here are excellent, especially because in many ways the actors have dual roles - the real and fake identities of their characters. They are both totally convincing, Schuurman in particular revealing layers I never knew she had. That seems rather apt too, don't you think?

1 comment:

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