The press kit for “Passion” was released via the production compagnies website. It also features in interesting and in-depth interview with director Brian de Palma. Thanks to tempjord for the heads up! You can read it below/inside, but be aware that it contains some major spoilers especially when you haven’t seen the original so don’t read further if you don’t want to get spoiled.
I high lighted the parts interesting to Rachel and her character Christine in italic. You can also see the scans of the Italian magazine FilmTV in our gallery, it features an article on “Passion“. The movie will have it’s world premiere at the Venice Film Festival tomorrow, and will have it’s North America premiere at TIFF next week.
How would you pitch the story?
It is a struggle for power between women and a murder mystery.
What attracted you to the story?
The fact that it is a thriller, the best genre for visual storytelling, with a certain element of fun to it. And a genre that I haven’t done since “Raising Caine”, 22 years ago. I liked the characters in the Alain Corneau film but I thought of a different way to reveal the murder. I rewrote the script so that there were constant surprises, many possible suspects and you did not know for sure who was the murderer. I also worked out quite a few tricks to make the audience believe one thing when something else happens.
How did you work out the intense relationship between the very dark Noomi Rapace and the luminous blonde Rachel McAdams?
Noomi Rapace is dangerous. She can be scary as Isabelle because you don’t know what goes on in that head of hers, and you believe she could kill somebody. Rachel McAdams is sexy and had great fun playing a very evil woman. Actresses don’t really like to play manipulative women like Christine, but Rachel went all out for it. Also, Noomi and Rachel had already worked together on “Sherlock Holmes” (Guy Ritchie) and knew each other well enough to leave the comfort zone and venture in dangerous territory. They were unafraid to go anywhere with each other. Which makes their duo very dynamic and compelling to watch.
The duo becomes a trio with red haired Karoline Herfurth, who plays Dani, the assistant. How did you choose her?
The movie is a Franco-German co-production and Karoline is a very popular German star. I saw her on “The Perfume” directed by Tom Tykwer, and I liked the way she looked with very red hair. She is a terrific actress and in that nest of vipers, Dani is the only one who seemingly has a heart. Unfortunately for her, she is in love with Isabelle.
The 3 women work for an advertising company and come up with an original idea for a commercial. Where did you find such an idea?
I went on the internet and came across a commercial that went viral. It’s about two Australian girls who stick a phone in one of the girls back pocket and walk around town photographing people looking at her bum. They put it on the internet and millions of people saw it. It looked as if two girlfriends were having some fun. But they turned out to be clever advertising executives and this was really an add for the phone! So I did exactly the same in my movie with Isabelle who is supposed to be a creative genius and her assistant Dani.
How did you approach the murder scene?
It is always very tricky when you set up someone to be killed. Normally it is very tense and quiet around the house and everybody has seen it a million times. So I approached in an entirely different way by using the split screen, which I had not done in a while, and by getting the audience engrossed in a very beautiful ballet on one side while Christine is being slashed on the other side. I have no idea how the audience will react at this juxtaposition of something so romantic and something so violent, but I like the strangeness of it. You sense you are in a danger zone, without being sure of what will happen. It is very similar to “Sisters” where you had the murder scene from two different points of view.
Why would “Afternoon of a faun” be the ideal ballet for this scene?
Because it is about the kiss of death. Isabelle kisses Christine like a mafia kingpin would kiss someone who is going to die. And in the choreography of Jerome Robbins, based on a very famous piece by Debussy, the dancer suddenly kisses the ballerina on the cheek and in a way violates her, just as Isabelle is violating Christine. The studio is a three wall set, and the dancers are facing the audience as though looking into the mirrored wall of the studio. It allowed me to have them look straight into the camera, which breaks the rule of the 4th wall and brings an odd quality to the scene. Alfred Hitchcock also used that first person camera sometimes, like in “The Paradine Case”. Later on, when Isabelle is arrested by the police, I used it again to maximize the interrogation scene.
The consistency of thematic obsession never falters in your work. Your characters often wear disguises and masks. Why?
To hide the face of the murderer! Here the idea was to use the very stylized mask of Christine’s face that she puts on her sexual partners… so that she is constantly making love to herself. The mask might also represent her mythical twin sister. Who may or may not exist.
Another recurrent obsession. Why so many twins, doubles and look alikes in you films?
I have no idea. But in many of my movies, I also repeat a situation that brings guilt, like when Christine says she feels responsible for her twin sister Clarissa’s accident. It occurred to me that when I was very young, there was a brutality that ran rampage over the weaker ones in my family. That was true of my father, my mother and my older brother Bruce. I was 10, my other brother Bart was 12, he was very sensitive and vulnerable, and I wanted to protect him from such rage. But I was never able to do it because I was a child. Hence the guilt!
With the sexy scenes and provocative dialogue, is the film an erotic thriller?
It’s hard to say. In the original movie, Alain Corneau tip toed around the sexual attraction between the characters. But Noomi Rapace and Rachel McAdams played it straight out. I did not say to them : “kiss each other and be erotic”. They just did it. And it was quite effective.
Still, there is the shower scene, the black underwears, the sex toys, which are part of your film’s DNA. Are you a voyeur like some of your protagonists?
As I said over and over again, I prefer photographing women than men. And here we have absolutely drop dead gorgeous women who were not afraid of nudity. However, this film is about women, but it is also for women, which is why I wanted to make it more elegant and refrained. The same goes for violence : I did not make it too explicit because women are turned off by it.
Part of the story is dreamt. Are dreams important in your creative process?
Yes. I am always dreaming solutions to the problems in my movies while I am asleep. And the film is like a constant dream where you don’t know what is true or not until you wake up. Also by sticking the very boring procedural stuff in a very stylized dream world, it becomes kind of fun.
Which visual effects would indicate that we are in a dream?
In the beginning, everything that is real is shot with straight camera angles. But when we get to the dreams, everything suddenly becomes tilted and you get a very stylized noir lightning. As soon as you get the “stripes” that look like Venetian blinds across the walls, watch out you are in dreamland!
Except that sometimes… we think we are in a dream, or rather a nightmare, but it is really happening. So I am playing constantly with that all through the movie, to keep the audience off balance.
How was it working with José Luis Alcaine who is Pedro Almodovar’s director of photography?
He comes from a classical background of cinematography, he gets « it » immediately and he really knows how to photograph women. Few cinematographers really know how to make them look beautiful and it was essential for me. Also, it is hard to shoot a film noir in color. But thanks to him the image looks terrific.
Pino Donaggio composed the original scores of your most famous thrillers. Is that why you called on him?
Yes. He knows how to write the kind of terror-dream music I needed for this film. He did it for “Carrie”, “Dressed to Kill”, “Blow Out”, “Body Double” and “Raising Cain”. The last sequence is essential and had to be absolutely right. Even though we had not worked together in 22 years, he knows me very well and once I gave him a temp suggestion, he came up with incredible stuff.
Although most of the movie takes place indoors, you shot it in Berlin. How did you use the decors?
The film it is an office-bedroom human drama and we really only find out where we are when somebody starts to speak German. But I am always looking for visual possibilities and locations, so we used the Bode Museum and the amazing DZ Bank, created by the architect Frank Gehry, which really adds to the ambiance.
It looks as though you were the only American on the set. Do you enjoy working in Europe?
There is enormous talent in Europe and you can make a movie within a reasonable budget. I sort pulled away from Hollywood after I made “Mission to Mars” which cost one hundred million dollars. It was the most expensive movie I ever made. It’s not good for the arts to be so expensive. A 250 million dollar budget forces you to make a certain type of movie, and as an older director I am not interested anymore. Very original material can be produced inexpensively, in the way of the independent American cinema. And now that we can shoot digitally, which costs nothing, we are going to get a lot more talent making individual types of movies. I am caught up between all these tendencies because I like beauty in movies. And beauty is expensive.