INTERVIEW ASIF KAPADIA
Writer-director of The Warrior
An epic, mythical tale of an Indian swordsman who attempts to turn his back on violence, The Warrior is far from a typical Bollywood film. And for its young director, the Hackney born and bred Asif Kapadia, it’s also far from a typical debut feature.
Kapadia had already shot an award-winning short in India, The Horse Thief, as his graduation film from London’s Royal College of Art. ‘It was a mad, mad experience,’ he says of the short. ‘The locations were in the middle of nowhere and the lead character was a real street kid who didn’t speak English. It was a natural progression from that film to The Warrior, which had a much bigger scale, but which had the same elements: very visual storytelling, mainly non-professional actors, amazing landscapes and a sense of magic-realism.’
In between writing drafts of the script for The Warrior with his former tutor at the RCA, Tim Miller, Kapadia would head out to India to scout suitably remote locations. ‘I would come back with loads of photos and stories, and I would incorporate them into what I was writing,’ says the now 29-year-old. ‘By the time I finished the script, I knew where all the locations were and what the cast would look like. Of course the advantage of shooting in the middle of nowhere in India is that the financiers aren’t going to interfere with your film. And unlike London, you’re not constantly trying to frame things out: there aren’t any cars going by, or telegraph poles or aeroplanes.’
Although he recruited untrained locals for such
key parts as the Thief and the Blind Woman, Kapadia gave the lead role of The Warrior to lrfan Khan, an alumnus of the National School of Drama in New Delhi. ‘lrfan doesn’t have the conventional pretty boy looks of a Bollywood star,’ says Kapadia, ‘and I felt straightaway that he had the presence to carry the film, which has so little dialogue. He was also one of the few actors I met in India who watched movies from all around the world, and so we shared reference points.’
Despite making The Horse Thief, surely Kapadia must have been daunted by the sheer scale of his first feature and the formidable
A spiritual journey far from the stuff of Bollywood
shooting conditions (in the deserts of Rajasthan, for example, the temperatures rose to 47 degrees, causing equipment to literally blow up)? ‘The first day was pretty scary,’ he admits. ‘There were 500 extras, and I had 250 crew behind me, and l was the youngest person on the unit. But it was later in the shoot when one of the villagers refused to let us film in his village and threatened to commit suicide that I really started to panic. In the end we just had to build the whole village from scratch and a few days later burn it all down.’ (Tom Dawson)
I The LVr’i/llOf plays (Sf-7. Glasgow and Film/rouse. Edinburgh from Fri 3 Marc See revrew. page 2.9.
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (PG) 131 min .0
Little swashing and buckling
As swashbucklers go. Alexandre Dumas yarn rollocks the socks of most. boasting as it does high drama. romance and adventure in equal measure. The tale. which turns on a man's deSrre for revenge. concerns; young sailor Edmond Dantes (played in the frln‘ by Jim Cavrerel) who is betrayed by his childhood friend Fernand Mondego (Guy Pearce). Mondego frames Dantes fer treason against France. scheming with a corrupt Marseilles magistrate to have him incarcerated in the notorious prison Chateau D'lf. Meanwhile. Mondego steals his friends bride to be and settles down in Paris to enjoy his life as the wealthy Count of Morcerf.
The years of solitary confinement break Dantes. destroying both hope and faith. Hour/ever. he finds an ally in fellow prisoner Abbe Farra (Richard Harris). With whom he plans hrs escape Via a tunnel and finally achieves rt in an altogether
different irianner. During therr time together. Farra educates Dantes in everything from economics to s\.'/ordfrglitrrig. He also begueaths to his protege a treasure map. which Dantes makes use of upon his escape. And so. free and rich beyond his wrldest dreams. Dantes reinvents himself as the Count of Monte Cristo and sets about exacting from everyone involved in his downfall an eye for an eye.
That's a lot of story to get through in )ust over two hours. and it shows. Badly. The pacing of Kevrn Reynolds film is shot. To squeeze in the tWrsts and turns of Dumas' plot. Reynolds (who's handled S‘-"‘/El$hl)tleleS better before with Robin Hood: Prince Of Thievesr gallops through the events. barely allowing hrs gurte decent - cast to perforn‘. This wouldr‘r't be so bad were the filll‘ exciting. but there's little room for the actual swast’irng and buckling of swords. knives and pistols. That said the action sequences are uninspired. Thus. the final duel between Dantes and Mondego rs lacking in both dynamics and dr‘amatrcs.
And one more criticism: there's rather too much anachronistic dialogue in .Jay Wolpert's script adaptation. most of when rs fashioned to allow the protagonists to spout the kind of 'clever' one-liners usually assocratr—zd with James Bond. Dumas would turn in hrs grave. (Miles Fielder)
I Out now on general release.
lHHll ll‘it PANIC ROOM (15) 112 min 0.00
One vertrgrnous shot in Davrd Frncher's Panic Room glides. swoops and soars around the four storeys of an imposing New York brownstone. pausing only to burrow into a keyhole at the moment an intruder is putting in a key.
It's a dr/xyrng. breathtaking. even exhilarating display. seamlessly combining real and Virtual crnernatograpliy. Does it amount to anything more than a show of “Look ma. no handsi' bravura? Probably not. Panic Room may well be more style than substance but rt nevertheless soon has the Viewer gripped.
.Jodre Foster's rich. emotionally bruised divorcee. Meg Altman. and her teenage daughter. Sarah (Kristen Stewart). have barely taken possession of their new Manhattan home when they have need of its most distinctive feature: a fortified. hidden chamber known as a panic room. On their first night in the place. they are forced to take refuge there when three intruders break in. Unfortunately. what the burglars are after is contained in the room. What follows rs a tense. cunning game of cat and mouse.
On one side of the reinforced steel door are the vulnerable mother and daughter. one claustror)hobrc. the other diabetic. On the other side are the invading trio: Junror (Jared Leto). the nominal leader of the gang. a slick. greedy trustafarran: the sinister. Violent Raoul (Dwight Yoakam): and Burnham (Forest Whitaker). a decent guy in desperate straits. One lot can't get Out: the others can't get in. But the stand off rs anything but boring. Sarah’s blood sugar levels drop while the crrmrnals' tempers rise. Meanwhile. the endlessly resourceful Meg schemes and improVises to keep herself and her daughter alive.
With her porcelain skin drawn with anxrety. Foster gives shades to her character that the script doesn't deserve. while Stewart. in Sid Vicious 'l-shrrt. is a (:onvrncrngly tornboyrsh teen. Of the bad guys. Whitaker is doleful and honourable. leto cartoon-like as the loudinouthed Junior. and Yoakani genuinely chilling as the psychotic Raoul.
Panic Room may fall well short of Frnchefs earlier urban nightmares. Se7en and fight C/t/i). but there's enough expertly crafted suspense to get vrewers' palrr s sweating and hearts racing. (Jason Best)
I General re/e.'ise from /n 3 Ma);
Tense game of cat and mouse
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