(31/10/07) – When it seems that every film you see is dragged out to over two hours these days, it’s pleasant to come across something that is a little less concerned with epic intention. Running at a lean 83 minutes Steve Buscemi’s Interview is just such a film, focussing almost exclusively on two people talking in a flat.
Now this approach to low key independent film-making is not new, Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise (1995) and Before Sunset (2004) and last year’s split-screen Conversations with Other Women follow a similar honed-down attitude to film-making but Interview is a far more acerbic affair. There is a sense in which this could all be produced theatrically but the subtle use of camerawork (and in Linklater’s films of backdrop) make for a more intimate, at times claustrophobic, setting.
Interview sees Buscemi’s caustic, sarcastic, world-worn reporter Pierre Peders’ attempt his latest assignment – interviewing the beautiful actress Katya (Sienna Miller). But Peders, as a war reporter and political correspondent, is resentful of the apparent dumbing down of his work, viewing the soap opera and horror film actress as a vacuous distraction and letting these feelings interfere with his objectivity. The pair eventually conduct the interview in on-and-off fashion in Katya’s apartment, with each trying to upstage the other both verbally and psychologically. But deep down they are both disturbed individuals who have complex pasts, which slowly become revealed in their vocal outpourings of confession and anger.
Although the premise is a well used one – two people playing games, where either or both have more information on the other than they are willing to let on – it is also a successful formula that allows an audience to become embroiled in the minutia of individuals’ devious behaviour – the recent remake of Sleuth shows the endearing nature of the basic concept. But Interview is less obviously convoluted and thriller based, at least at first, appearing to be about the increasing spitefulness, mixed with sexual tension, between two professionals slowly succumbing to the effects of drink or drugs.
Buscemi, as ever, does not take the opportunity of being behind the camera to show himself in a good light in front of it – Peders is petty, spiteful and revels in what he sees as his own intellectual superiority to the affluent and successful Katya. His odious attitude, coupled with Katya’s apparent un-professionalism, means that audience identification is deliberately distanced. As the film progresses, allegiances switch as more is revealed. This is a finely balanced piece of narrative manipulation that Buscemi is content to see unfolding in a tightly controlled but unobtrusive manner, although everything appears naturalistic it is carefully constructed to lull the viewer into thinking this is predominantly an improvised piece.
Initially surprising perhaps is the film’s links to the Netherlands in the names and products that line the backdrops of the exteriors, especially as the cast seems distinctly American. But Interview is, in fact, a remake of a film by controversial Dutch director Theo van Gogh and such visual and aural links to the original film serve more as homage to the source, rather than taking the "Hollywood lazily remaking a foreign film because audiences don’t like reading subtitles" approach.
Interview‘s complex play of singular relationships relating to the wider media circus, the perceptions of celebrity and the human condition make for an engaging film even if the final tally is that of a clever but slight parlour piece. The acting is uniformly superb and the direction understated and appropriate. Not up with Buscemi’s quirky debut Trees Lounge but an intriguing character piece that never flags.
Interview is out in the UK on Friday, 02 November.