Posted December 6, 2012 by Alex Moss Editor in Features
 
 

Director Bernard Rose


Far From Rosy Road Trip

Far From Rosy Road Trip

Boxing Day is the latest offering
from enduring Brit director Bernard Rose (Candyman, Mr Nice, Immortal Beloved),
who started out directing music videos for the likes of UB40 and Frankie Goes
To Hollywood.

Both
written and directed by Rose, and with a soundtrack that includes his own
classical compositions, Boxing Day is the powerful third film in a series of
modern-day adaptations of Leo Tolstoy
novellas that he has made with long-time friend and collaborator Danny Huston (son of legendary
filmmaker John Huston).

The
trilogy began in 1997 with Anna Karenina,
also starring Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean and continued with Ivansxtc,
based on The Life And Death Of Ivan
Ilych
.

Rose’s
new film tackles Tolstoy’s 1895 novella Master
And Man
, which tells the story of a greedy landowner who travels to a
remote town in the middle of a blizzard to get his hands on some cheaply priced
woodland, taking along his loyal servant and arrogantly ignoring the ominous
weather.

Rose’s
quirky, intelligent reworking centres around the fortunes of avaricious
businessman Basil (Huston), who is up to his ears in debt. He leaves his wife
and kids the day after Christmas to pursue a morally dubious but lucrative
property deal that could solve all his financial woes. It involves buying
foreclosed properties from banks at a fraction of their market value, doing
them up as cheaply as possible, and selling on for a quick, easy profit.

The
servant here is local taxi driver Nick (Matthew
Jacobs
), who is almost as hard to warm to and morally questionable as
Basil. You might not want to share a beer if you met them in a bar yet, under
Rose’s subtle and sharp direction, both are revealed to be deeply intriguing
characters.

As
Nick cautiously drives his client through the snowy mountainous area his
properties are situated in, he manages to push all his buttons and, when at
nightfall their car gets trapped on an icy road in dangerously low
temperatures, the intimate conversations they have see them begin to question
their lives, as the possibility of death draws closer.

Boxing Day is your third Tolstoy
adaptation, this one based on Master And Man – how close have you kept to the
original?

The
film is very close to the original, almost nothing has changed. Someone said to
me when I was starting the project, ” This story couldn’t work today
because we have GPS and they couldn’t get lost.”

Again, we have a powerful man in the
throes of anxiety. Is this a quintessentially Tolstoyan theme?

Tolstoy
asks the big questions and then tries to actually answer them, so yes. All his
characters are undergoing spiritual and existential crises of some kind.

Boxing Day is a ‘smaller movie’ than
others you’ve made, with a crew of six– was there something liberating about
that?

Absolutely.
Anything that stops the machinery and the industrial process from dominating a
shoot is liberating. It brings it back to the actors, who are what it should be
all about.

You capture the nuances of each man
as they cajole and exasperate each other. Was it good to have the freedom to
film at that relatively slow place?

Fast
cutting has become a terrible cliché, it renders everything the same and has a
kind of TV promo feel. If you spend time with the characters, you can get more
involved with them.

Was it as cold to shoot as it was to
watch?! What were the technical challenges?

It
was extremely cold – minus 18 to be exact. At that temperature, there is no
moisture, no water vapour coming out of mouths. And it was high altitude which
made it hard to breathe. We were shooting the scene where Danny is struggling
through the deep snow bank, when a Park Ranger appeared and quietly told us to
stop as we were about to set off an avalanche!

You’ve cast Danny Huston in all
three films now. You clearly have a lot of faith in him; how has he grown as an actor since
he began working with you, and why is he the man to encompass all these
characters?

In
a sense, Tolstoy always writes about the same man – Pierre in War And Peace, Levin in Anna Karenina,
Ivan in The Death Of Ivan Illyich – so it makes sense to have the same actor
play the different roles. Danny has a lot of Tolstoyan qualities; he feels
aristocratic but is troubled. When you look at the films together you can also
see him physically age, so the films become a kind of chronicle of this man’s
life.

How has your creative relationship
with Huston evolved?

I
can say I totally trust Danny as an actor and we always have a lot of fun doing
these movies.

A fourth adaptation is in the offing
with a much lighter tone – can you tell us more?

It
is called Two Jacks and is an
adaptation of Two Hussars. In the
film Danny plays a version of his father, John Huston, a legendary sacred
monster of a man and Jack Huston, Danny’s nephew, plays a version of Danny.

You’re now working on Paganini – The
Devil’s Violinist, a much bigger production number! What drew you to Paganini?

Paganini
was the first Rock Star, and his myth is that to achieve his phenomenal success
he sold his soul to the Devil. So it is a version of Faust and like Faust it is a romance.

The lead is played by classical
violinist David Garrett – weren’t you tempted to get an actor who is convincing
at playing the violin?

There
are many actors and few virtuoso violinists. Of the violinists, only one is
incredibly handsome and charismatic; David Garrett.

Which film, or the work of which
director, first made you want to become a filmmaker?

Ken
Russell’s great movies in the early seventies: The Devils, The Music Lovers, Savage Messiah – they totally blew
the stuffiness out of British cinema and were hugely inspiring to me. They
showed that anything was possible.

Boxing Day, directed by Bernard
Rose, is released on 21st December.



Alex Moss Editor

 
Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com