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Saturday, May 4, 2013
DE PALMA ON CHRISTINE'S TWIN SISTER
AND HAVING THE GERMAN ACTORS SPEAK GERMAN, BERLIN LOCATIONS, THE ENDING, ETC.
A lot of interviews with Brian De Palma have been coming out of Germany, and this one from Frankfurter Allgemeine's Andreas Kilb is one of the best. If you're touchy about spoilers, you may wish to wait and read the rest of this post after you've seen Passion. What I think is most significant in this interview is that when De Palma is asked whther or not Christina's twin sister really exists, De Palma says he has "no idea." It says a lot about the significance of the twin sister, and whether the movie provides all the answers. De Palma is basically saying that the twin sister may exist, and she may not, but either way, it matters so little to the film itself that he doesn't even know the answer. He is a translation from the interview provided by Patrick, with some tweaks here and there from me (thanks, Patrick!).
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What made you decide to add Debussy's "Afternoon of a Faun" to a murder story?

I love Debussy. And I'm a fan of this ballet. I wanted to use it for a long time in a movie. In the French model of "Passion", Isabelle goes to the movies and slips through a rear exit. I moved the scene to an evening at the ballet.

So it wasn't really the sexual theme of "Afternoon" that attracted you?

With me you can see the pas de deux with the kiss, and on the other half of the split screen you can see Christine at her home, expecting a lover and getting murdered. At the moment of the kiss, the knife cuts her throat.

Did you discover Berlin as a film location, or did Berlin find you?

We had planned to shoot the interiors of the film in Berlin and the exteriors in London. When I saw the venues in London, I said: Why don't we shoot Berlin as Berlin? There are some great buildings there as in any other European city. At the end we even shot the scenes set in London in Berlin.

With you however, Berlin doesn't come across as a particularly cozy place. It's rather spooky.

Great! That was exactly my intention. When I work in European cities, I often have the feeling that the directors who live there miss out on some of the most amazing sights of their own surroundings. To shoot at the Sony Center is not particularly original, in fact. Nevertheless, in every interview people say : Oh my God, the Sony Center! (Laughs) It seems to be a fantastic location. Why has no one else ever thought of it?

Since "Femme Fatale" your image of women seems to have changed. The heroines are more active, more aggressive, less victimized than in your earlier work.

It is always more interesting to have a woman instead of a man act in front of the camera, one can simply do much more beautiful things with them.

Did you pick your actresses by hair color?

That happened by accident. Rachel has already changed her hair color quite often. She came in as a blonde, Noomi as a brunette, and then Karoline came in - I liked her red hair in Tom Tykwer's "Perfume". That's why she dyed it again in that tone.

Is working with German actors different than with others?

No, I wouldn’t say that. The guy who plays the detective. . .

. . . the actor Rainer Bock. . .

. . . this guy can do anything. Incredible. Great character actor. Fantastic. It was wonderful to watch him at work. And then the guy who plays the prosecutor, the German with the English accent!

You mean Benjamin Sadler.

That was so funny. We shot the scene, and they all spoke English. I said, but you are all Germans, why don't you speak in German? They were gobsmacked. They had to literally make an effort to continue in German, because they had rehearsed their roles in English. And we found no proper translation for the sentence, "The butler did it." Instead, he suddenly said: "The gardener did it." Okay, I said, then I guess it was the gardener! Don't you have this butler cliché in Germany?

Absolutely, there is a famous song: "The murderer is always the butler." However, even there in the end it turns out to be the gardener.

Oh, really? (Laughs) Well, that's probably where it all came from then.

What made you interested in the game with lesbian entanglement?

In the French original, this motif of attraction and manipulation was already there. The decisive alteration with me is that I changed the gender of Isabelle's assistant. I now find this figure much more exciting. The fact that Dani loves Isabelle and picks an argument with Christine almost automatically makes her a murder suspect.

For your last shot, are you referring to Chabrol's "Cry of the Owl"?

I've never seen it. The idea for the scene literally came to me at the very last minute. In the script, the story ended with a dream sequence. Having Dani dead on the carpet allowed me to send out a clear message. Chabrol has done the same thing? Then it was probably a good idea.

Does Christine really have a twin sister, or is it an illusion?

I have no idea.

Have you had problems with the budget?

Not a bit. The film was scheduled for 45 days, I shot it in 39. It just rushed through.

Do you sometimes think about releasing DVD director's cuts from your early films?

No, never. I'm actually quite happy with my films. For "Casualties of War" I recut two scenes for the DVD edition. But that's it.


Posted by Geoff at 2:10 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 4, 2013 8:13 PM CDT
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