*Director Suzanne Bier, who won an Oscar for “In A Better World,” sat down to discuss her riveting film that opens April 1. It was quite interesting to see the parallels between the African refugee camp and the Danish community in which Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a doctor, lives.
“Yes, I mean that’s sort of the story,” Bier comments. “It’s a way to show that those two worlds couldn’t be more different. An African refugee camp couldn’t be more different than a privileged Danish village but human nature is pretty much the same.”
Although this movie takes place far from America-and there is almost a guilty pleasure watching Christian (William Johnk Nielsen) reverse the tables and beat his attacker-the bullying aspect of the film is very much present. She told The Film Strip, however, that this was not part of her mindset when she started the project.
“We did it prior to the media focus on it but I still think that probably things are taking place in time even before the media catches on to it. It became It became very big and those unfortunate cases where the kids committed suicide made it obviously a real big media thing. So there hasn’t been more bullying, it is just something that needs to be addressed.”
The main thrust of the story, Bier explains, is mankind’s propensity to absolve.
“I mean I do want the audience to leave the cinema and also talk about the whole revenge, forgiveness notion which is sort of the undercurrent of the entire film. It’s really about the complexity of revenge and forgiveness because although the film at least suggested that forgiveness is better, it’s not black and white. I mean there are certain things which are unforgivable.”
Don’t let the title “White Irish Drinkers” fool you. It is not just about bawdy beer brawlers. It is an emotionally charged movie dealing with abuse, elusive dreams and redemption. “Avatar’s” bad guy Stephen Lang told me he was skeptical of taking on the role of the father.
“When I read the script I was a little bit intimidated or fearful of the role just because I wasn’t quite sure that I wanted to access that stuff. I have two sons, I have two daughters as well, but one of my boys is named Danny (the names of son he beats mercilessly in “White Irish Drinkers”). But in any case I thought that in itself is a good reason to do something, when you’re a bit afraid of it I think.”
Nick Thurston jumped at the opportunity to play Danny’s younger brother.
“I mean the writing is brilliant and I think that there’s a lot of heart and soul in it,” he says. “It’s a fascinating character, multi-faceted character. I just saw a lot of stuff to play around with obviously and that’s interesting enough for me. And the ending is wonderful. For a while there I just thought it was going to end like most do with a sort of handshake or a hug.”
“The arc in my character, a great story and all the other intricate character drew me to the project,” Geoff Wigdor (Danny) explained. “It was just a blessing because getting to play this type of role it really strengthens not only my love for acting but just me as a person, you know, ’cause I found out a lot about myself. I also found out a lot about my life through these characters because there was so much going on.”
Writer/Director/Producer John Gray says the title may be off- putting but he wanted to change the attitude about the Irish.
“In fact it [title] goes to the root of why I wanted to make the movie. So often growing up I would go to the movies and see the working class, blue collar world and characters from the Irish community depicted as kind of stupid, and losers and this wasn’t my experience growing up. Not that there weren’t people who were dangerous and drank, but for the most part the people I grew up with were smart, funny, really cynical and sarcastic.
“Then when Mayor [Mike] Bloomberg said what he said about the Irish, I said, ‘oh sh*t,’ since we were about to open. While shooting in Bayridge and some people would pass by and see the name on the slate or something and most people were like, ‘sounds like me, that’s my story.’ And then we there was an irate woman who came by and started yelling at us, this is prejudiced. There should be a protest against this movie.’ I fell in love with the title. I knew it was provocative but it also, to me, just summed up that world because that’s how it was with my friends. We shunned drugs. That just was not cool. We drank and we were all white and we were all Irish. So it was obviously not meant to be a slur but it was on my mind.” against this.
“Cracks” takes place in an all-girls boarding school in England. The venue in the novel is South Africa. Director Jordan Scott says she is more familiar with her English surrounding and, “Moving it to the thirties was to show the thirties sense of repression. People in Europe were going through a period of denial about what was going on around them. This school was cut off from the outside world as well.”
Bullying at this exclusive school also has fatal results.
“I went to an all-girls school and know how dreadful girls can be,” recalls Scott. “The film does speak to that and how out of control things can get in schools when teachers have no idea what’s going on. It happens every day here but it’s kept under the radar.”
In addition to the bullying problem, there is a sex abusing teacher, Miss G, running amuck. Scott prefers to describe her as a control freak.
“My guess is that in all the years, Miss G has never seduced a girl at the school, although she certainly could have.” [Eva Green, who plays Miss G, nods her head.] “Fiamma [the student Miss G sexually abuses, portrayed by Maria Valverde] is exotic, she’s traveled a lot, she’s cultured, she’s very controlled. She’s everything Miss G would like to be,” Green weighs in. “At first she’s interested in her, then intrigued, then fascinated, then unhealthily obsessed. She wants to own her and be her. I don’t know if it is sexual when it reaches that level of obsession.”
“I never thought that the sexual part had anything to do with [her sexuality]. Miss G has a need to consume Fiamma and it suddenly gets expressed in an awful sexual way. I don’t think it was ever that she is a lesbian or had a crush on Fiamma in the beginning. It’s just her need for ownership, her obsession and her wanting to become her,” Green stated.