Talking Stone Film

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– Making many decisions, and letting things evolve into the way that they most naturally would be, and Jonathan was making
dozens of decisions every day, and some of them were shocking,
and I would, you know, I would be shocked, (laughter) but there was not time to be too shocked. – What was shocking, what was shocking? – Well, you know, one, thing that was shocking, I
mean, the simplest really, was that, in the scene where I’m at the beginning, where I’m in the bed, gosh, he dialed it down, you might say, dialed our performances
down to what I thought would be inaudible,
practically, that we were, almost, being so, I mean, he was asking me to be less
and less expressive, let’s say, and I couldn’t believe it. I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that he
was right (scattered laughter) but I, I had to trust him,
because you know he’s, he had won my trust, and I had to believe him. I wasn’t seeing how it looked
on the monitor, you know, because directors now have, they can watch what’s happening on the TV screen, I just couldn’t believe it, but I obeyed, and you know, he was 100
percent right, of course. And then, you know,
there were other issues of interpretation that, you know, shocked me, that were different from what we’ve done, but, but Andre understood, Andre was sitting next to him looking at the little television
and seeing, you know, how it looked, and, it was very, you know, it was a very
happy seven days, basically, joyful, Jonathan directs partly by his passionate enthusiasm, and, carrying you along. He’s an incredible appreciator of acting, of camera work, of the guy who moves the camera, he sees what everybody’s doing, and appreciates it so much that
you just want to please him. – He’s like Andre in that respect, in that there is this, not only understanding of
what a whole production team is doing, but, not just an encouragement of them, but a kind of love of what they’re doing, and you can, you can
sense that in the work. I am just staggered that
this was done in seven days, but especially from people who, well, the difference between spending 14 years putting the play together, and then 7 days filming it. I’m curious about, I mean, clearly when you spend that long, the material just sort of
gets into your blood and bones as you’ve suggested. But then, I’m curious in the, in the film, scene to scene, were, were scenes, I’m asking now partly as a playwright, were scenes cut, adjusted, changed, either in what actually in the scene or in the rhythm of them? And I’m thinking there
were several times here, where knowing the play, I recognized, we’ve come right up to a point in a scene, and then we go off and do something else, like right before the castles in the airs, or the, that’s not the way
you’d try to say it, the, cloud castles, or whatever.
– Right, right. In Ibsen, they build up
to that, that revelation. Here you came right up to
about two lines before it, and I was waiting for it, and then bang! We went off and did something else, then we came back and picked it up. In that scene, or in
other scenes like that, was the film rhythm of certain scenes or the cutting of
certain scenes different? – Yes, we actually, well first of all, the play, by the time we did
the play for our friends, it was enormously cut. And, changed, there were some changes. I mean, there are two scenes
between Hilda and Solness in the last of what, in the play, is the third, in the third act, and, we turned them into one
scene, to be brutally frank. And then, for the sake of the movie, I actually intercut certain
scenes in the third act that, were more, let’s say methodical in the play. But in the film, that was gonna seem heavy, and, I mean, we, I took the
liberty of thinking, “well I’ve spent more time
on this than Ibsen did,” and (laughter) so, I have the right to, you
know, make some changes. I don’t defend that, I
mean, (laughter) you know. If, I mean, I wrote a little
essay in the back of the book that is either on sale now or it will be in a couple of weeks, which is basically the text of the play, and I give as good a
defense of myself as I can. And then, after the film was made, Jonathan and Tim Squyres, the editor, cut the film a lot. They didn’t change the order of events, but there are some, I mean, it was extremely cut, and you know, and we all
participated, in a way, in that, I mean, in the modern techniques enable the
kind of graceful process that the editor and the
director were alone in the room, so neither Andre nor I
were howling or arguing or bothering them, but then they could send us, you know, every once in a while, a
DVD of where they were. I think I got six or seven of them, and, I wrote all my opinions in emails, and sent them to Jonathan. Some were, you know, some of the emails
were greeted with hate, (laughter) he didn’t answer, and, others obviously he agreed, and I was educated enormously
by looking at these cuts. And of course the reward for me, was that my performance
improved beyond (laughter) what you could even imagine,
as each cut would arrive, my talent as an actor increased, so I was so overjoyed, really, by that, that I looked forward
to seeing these cuts. And some of the cuts of the text were unbelievably clever, so that honestly I would say, “oh, wow, well.” I mean, obviously in a film you don’t need as many words, because with the closeups, you can make certain points
unmistakably clearly, and you really don’t
need to say the thing. And of course Ibsen did
not have the opportunity to make a film. This play is so much in
the mind, that, you know, I sort of think, “oh,
if film had been around, this would have been a film,” you know. I should say, by the way, when
we’re speaking of 14 years, the older actors were
there at the beginning, Julie Hagerty, Larry
Pine, the doctor, and me, the younger ones were
children at that time. – Right. (laughter) – So we started with younger, with a different group
of actors, and then they, these are, had been with us, you know, for three or four years, not 14. – Yeah, I’m sure this
will be a wonderful case actually to study, or hopefully
you will keep the emails, the six or seven cuts. (Wallace laughs) And it will be a wonderful documentation for generations to come
to study how to do this. Many regard Ibsen as the
most significant playwright than Shakespeare in that
time, up, leading up to him. His radical inventions, that
really profoundly changed theater, western theater, he’s the father of realism, to bring it onstage. Yet, in this film, in a way we learned, it was almost like a magical realism. Wishers, dreams, dolls. We all knew Peer Gynt, he
would (speaks softly) deeply into this, but people say, “Oh, well that was the sin of his youth, and he was still finding himself.” But, and this is a question
also for you, Marvin, is he actually a surrealist is he a magic realist? Or, I think this is quite a discovery. – Well, it, Ibsen’s scholars divide his
career into particular periods, and the period that everybody knows is what’s called his middle period, although he was getting fairly old by the time he got to his middle period. But that is the plays between Doll’s House and the Master Builder, and those are, ghosts and doll–, they’re the ones that everybody knows, Doll’s House and Ghosts particularly, and Hedda Gabler’s in the same style, though it comes a little later. And when people say
Ibsen, Ibsen is a realist, they’re thinking of those plays, but very clearly, starting
with the Master Builder, he has decided that realis–,
that for real realism, you’ve got to get inside the mind, in a way that later on this, well not the same way,
but for the same motives that the symbolists and expressionists began to do non-realistic
things in order to more carefully reflect what’s going on. So, after the Master Builder, then you’ll get plays like Rosmersholm, and When We Dead Awaken, that are all full of people like this, that you might, you said surrealistic, not in the literal sense surrealistic, but practically yes, it is
kind of a hyper-realism, it’s a realism that is
inflected by dreams and visions, and getting inside the, getting inside, it’s Virginia Woolf realism,
and I mean that’s… So it is a mis-characterization of Ibsen, to say, I mean he is a great realist, but to say that that’s all he is, because he’s also, he was one of the first people
who moved beyond realism into that, that, that other kind of world. You know, as we were talking about the, about the, the, the odd
kind of double meanings, and hidden meanings, even
in the, even in Wild Duck, which is toward the end
of his realistic period, there’s a wonderful line where, where the girl in the Wild Duck is talking about one of
the older characters, and she says, “Well, it’s very strange, everything he said, I
thought he was talking about something else.” (laughter) It’s true.
– It is. And you look at this film, and you think, every time anybody says anything, there’s something else going on. (speaks softly) I mean, it’s
just what you said, Wallace, but that’s something that
already by the Wild Duck he’s thinking that way, that nobody ever says exactly
what they’re thinking. – Almost like in physics,
where we say it’s dark matter, 70 or 80 percent that
exists, is invisible to us. Before we come to you,
just maybe one question, why this play? If you just knew you spent so much time, why not another one of the western canon, or an American? Why, what, why did you say
I’m gonna work on this? – Well we didn’t know how long
we were gonna be spending. (laughter) I mean, I
mean, I said to Andre, “Let’s do Ibsen.” And he said, “Well, I
want to pick the play, and I want to do this,
the Master Builder,” and I think obviously I mean, on the simplest level,
it’s about getting older, and the, I would say, you know, the resentment
that the Master Builder has toward Ragnar, toward
younger people, is really a displaced resentment
toward the fact that we didn’t do anything wrong, and yet we’re being
kicked out of the Earth. I mean, we’re gonna be punished by death, even though we didn’t do anything. And young people are
just enjoying themselves, and they don’t even need
to think about death, and we’re angry, and it’s untolerable. I mean, some of the people, you don’t even understand what we mean. But we’re bitter. (laughter) And it’s terribly unfair, you know. So that’s the simplest level of the play. It also happens to be
very relevant to our time in that this dreadful man, that I play, is a, he is the classic controlling, if you will, male. He’s the straight white male, if you want to look at it that way, who is, you know, running roughshod over everything else, and, so his character is very interesting today. I mean he’s the guy who’s
destroying the planet, so that’s interesting, you know. And the, the, I don’t know it’s also morally
so interesting, because you can see that Ibsen is
wrestling with these issues, in a way, if you watched only
the first half of the play, you would say, “well,
he’s kind of making fun of Mrs. Solness, and her
obsession with obligation, he’s kind of mocking that.” But by the time you get
to the end of the play, well, she’s rather amazing. She’s the one you have to truly admire, and even for a moment Hilda is saying, “well, you know, you really should live for your obligations.” And, so it’s, obviously Ibsen, this is the time of Nietzsche, and people thinking,
“no, I’m not gonna live for my obligations, I want to
live for joy and happiness,” and Ibsen didn’t resolve these issues, he was wrestling with them. – Go ahead, Jim. – It’s so amazing, what you say, about Mrs. Solness, is a large example of what happens in the play
down to the tiniest moment, which is, you get a
statement in that direction, and then you get a
statement in that direction. – Yes, exactly. – But I mean, the fire in
the house was started by this crack in the chimney, the fire in the house
wasn’t. (Wallace laughs) You know, and it all goes back and forth. I saw, Ingmar Bergman’s
production of the Wild Duck, at Dramaten in Sweden. My Swedish was not at
the top, at the point, and the thing that amazed me
about it was the audience, and you would thought that
they were at Neil Simon. They were, and Ibsen
does call the Wild Duck a tragi-comedy, and it was funny. And I think that this film
is what has demonstrated about this play, not that it’s not there
to be seen in a production on the stage, but, it’s a real tragi-comedy, you sometime, you go between laughter
and very serious feeling, if not tears, but sometime, you’re, “I don’t know whether to
laugh or cry,” you know. – And Jim, just to follow up on that, I think the, again, I think this film makes that clearer than any
production I’ve ever seen, in that the characters feel that, too, that is they will burst into laughter, and then suddenly, or vice
versa, (Wallace laughs) they’ll suddenly, they’ll
be at a moment when you and they think
“this is just horrible,” then, Hilda will laugh, or Solness will laugh, and I don’t know that I’ve
ever seen a production where the characters themselves were on the knife edge, though Ibsen loves to do that, and there’s a, there’s a great interchange in John Gabriel Borkman, where Borkman is, is talking to Foldal and he says, “my life has really been a great tragedy,” and Foldal agrees, then he says, “on the other hand, if you
look at it another way, it’s been a comedy.” (Wallace laughs) And that seems to be a
quintessential Ibsen. Maybe especially in the Wild Duck, but I think you’re quite
right, it’s there everywhere, but here, truly is the first
time where I’ve ever seen, the actors reflecting that ambiguity. – Yeah, and Julie Hagerty
does too, she’s… Also, I mean, the, you know, we did, it
is translated with the, with the, intention that all the characters
are quite smart, which, and certainly it’s acted
that way, and that’s, I don’t know, I’ve sometimes
seen productions of Ibsen where that’s not really the case. – We’re a little, we went a bit overtime. So I think perhaps we,
we’ll leave it at this, I think, again, I think
it’s one of the great stage film adaptations of a play
that I have ever seen. I’m truly moved by this,
and I know I will think, and (speaks softly) even dream about. And so think you, to
all of you for coming, and taking time out of your life. Thank you. – Thanks so much. That man has a question, but… – [Man In Audience] Look
around, handful of people. You mentioned this film is the only copy. The amount of love and
work which went into this, are in the results. And there’s not a prayer, not a hope, that any (speaks softly)
would turn the movie into a book? – Maybe, maybe (speaks
softly) you can answer this. – He says– – How come this is the
only copy in the world, why are the only people who can see this? – [Man Answering] (speaks
softly) there will be more copies (speaks softly) at this moment… – It’s before the national
release, so that is good, so–, – It will be released. (laughter) – I think we have to stop, so I’m sorry. So thank you all for coming again. – It will be at the Film
Forum, on July the 23rd. For two weeks. – And more, I hope.

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