The Movie Dictator Club for the month of May, 2011 is dreary on a level that isn’t even allowed in Sweden!
Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen
Woody Allen absolutely adores Ingmar Bergman, this truth can be seen in almost every film he has ever directed. Interiors is the first film where Mr. Allen migrates from adoration to a complete effort to be Mr. Bergman. It’s an interesting idea and I don’t take issue with Mr. Allen’s attempt, but I do take umbrage with his execution. Interiors is very much a movie that never gets going and it never gets going because Mr. Allen is constantly searching for just the right mixture of a Bergman like quality and can never find it. There are moments that do come close, but they are always held back by a simple certitude, the characters in Interiors are false and lack an emotional core.
Interiors is intellectually stimulating film making, your brain will get a good work out sifting through the ideas Mr. Allen wants to put forth. The films of Ingmar Bergman are known for doing much the same, but there is a key difference and that difference is what stops Interiors from being an engaging film. Fanny Och Alexander, not the best from Bergman but my favorite, is permeated with dread. It is also stuffed with moments of silliness, laughter, and surreality. The work of Mr. Bergman almost always has these attributes to go along with his deep philosophizing, Mr. Bergman’s films are whole, they can touch one emotionally and they engage the viewer. The same can be said of most of Mr. Allen’s oeuvre, but he crafts Interiors as dreadfully serious, thus it is a film that feels anything but human. There’s a level of detachment between the characters on screen and me as a viewer that was off putting. Mr. Allen made a career out of understanding how to balance the dramatic with the comedic. Interiors is meant to be an homage to the works of a man who also understood the emotional core that was needed at the heart of even the most dire of films. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out why Mr. Allen forsake the rest of his career and the majority of the work of the man he adores to bring us a film that is so emotionally distant and muted that it feels fake.
The best elements of Interiors, the cinematography of Gordon Willis and the set design of Mario Mazzola and Daniel Robert, are squandered by the direction and writing of Mr. Allen. His actors are suffocating beneath the material Mr. Allen has given them, case in point the cliche ridden performance of Richard Jordan as Frederick the hard drinking failed writer. Diane Keaton’s performance is full of speeches that are hard to believe from the moment she opens her mouth. She’s supposed to be middle class, but she talks and acts as if she is decidedly bourgeois. The entire cast behaves in this way, they present problems in a way that it is impossibly to relate to because the way they go about handling their problems isn’t the least bit believable or, again, engaging. The direction of Mr. Allen is stifling, he often wastes the gorgeous cinematography of Mr. Willis by only allowing half the frame to be seen. His writing is where the film suffers the most, a tale from a writer as capable of understanding humanity as Mr. Allen should not be so alien and foreign.
I’m a lover of both Woody Allen and Ingmar Bergman, they may not be perfect but I always look forward to seeing their films. Instead of being a worthy homage from one director I love to another I love, Interiors is a dreary misfire. Mr. Allen has launched an arrow named Interiors that is meant to hit Mr. Bergman square in his heart, but instead it hits him in a very tiny portion of his brain and leaves out everything else that makes the films of Mr. Bergman so great. Mr. Allen is capable of so much more, and he knows that the work of Mr. Bergman amounts to much more than what he has given the audience in Interiors, otherwise the rest of his career wouldn’t be so full of life and the complete opposite of Interiors.