As the writer-director of seventeen feature films in nineteen years (a Fassbinderian pace), whose work has been screened on multiple continents in the context of film festivals, Hong surely recognizes the ritual nature/torture of the filmmaker Q&A.
Emboldened by the critical and popular success of Birdman—that ostensibly invigorating, hugely irritating statement of artistic and aesthetic principles—the director has gone chasing after Herzog, Coppola, Friedkin, and all the other mad, corporate-backed visionaries who’ve dragged movie stars into the jungle, or in this case, the Rockies.
Son of Saul’s insistence on real-time tension means that it’s deliberately cut off from considerations of the bigger picture; what it theoretically gains in trade is a sense of authenticity, which becomes increasingly presumptuous in light of its heavy-handed storytelling and basic lack of dramatic believability.
“It’s hard to be direct. For me, when things are direct, they make me start to think of other forms of media, like literature, or a scholarly paper. For me, film is different. It’s something that stirs curiosity or emotions, and it’s only later that you discover what was underneath—or maybe not!”
”When I was starting to make Eden, people told me that my main character was too passive or too negative; when you write scripts and try to get financing, that’s the sort of thing that you’re told not to do, or that people don’t want to see that. People said that it should be a success story.”
Like Olivier Assayas in Something in the Air, Hansen-Love is smart enough to show that adolescent collectives are at least as much about the rush of experiencing something—be it a rave or a protest rally—in close physical proximity to one’s peers as the thing itself.
Each of these set pieces is superbly executed within Andersson’s trademark long-take style, and the dichotomies they set up—between past and present, reality and fantasy, and comedy and melancholy—are potent and suggestive. They are all also basically copies of scenes that the director has done before.
The social commentary here is broad, earnest, and welcome; the trick is that Miller and his cowriters have found a way to work these loftier concerns into what is basically an extended, 120-minute chase sequence, and to generate images that speak eloquently in the absence of dialogue.
“I like the title because it puts you in the space of a legend, one of those cities like El Dorado. Maybe we think we’re in something more like a fairy tale, or a fabula. The film doesn’t exist. It’s not real. It’s been created. I like the film in that place.”