Berlin: Viggo Mortensen Knows His Patricia Highsmith

Screen International, February 12, 2014 | Go to article overview

Berlin: Viggo Mortensen Knows His Patricia Highsmith


The Two Faces of January actor claims the film is "much better than the book"

The Two Faces of January, getting its world premiere in Berlin, Hossein Amini's first feature film and the latest adaptation of one of Patricia Highsmith's popular thriller novels.In the film, an American con artist, his wife and a stranger try to flee Greece as one of them is caught up in the murder of a private detective.According to the writer turned director, this particular adaptation took him 25 years to write the script, making it a free adaptation but also very much inspired by the source material as well as his love for Highsmith as a reader and an author. "It was a hard job," he said.His leading man, Viggo Mortensen, went even further, affirming that not only is it a good script, but that "with no disrespects... it's much better than the book".Amini also tends to love to adapt novels that feature intense characters, so well written and so well drawn by the novelist "that it becomes very easy to invent scenes or change scenes because they have that really strong center".Indeed, for the director and the actor alike, the characters in Patricia Highsmith's novels are very important. These characters all seem perfect but they are gradually falling apart in an interesting way, "you're with these characters you care about them in spite of your dislike for them, in spite of being almost embarrased for them at times and that's good storytelling," Mortensen said.For Amini, the characters belong very much to the postwar generation as "they're golden at the beginning, almost like a Fitzgerald couple and by the end of it they are reduced to something very very different, as the characters are stripped away, the white jacket gets dirtier and dirtier and these people are kind of reduced to their bare essence by the end", something he found very moving.For Mortensen, these characters are the prototypical film noir characters with a secret, thus offering his own definition of film noir: "the characters need to lie and lose and it needs to end badly for everyone and as long as it does that, it's acceptable to me as film noir no matter where it takes place". …

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