Until Death Do Us Part - Jonas

Jumaat, Januari 30, 2009

#55. Interview : Alone With The Truth

30hb Januari, 2009
The New Straits Time

Clint Eastwood goes behind the movie Changeling, the real-life story of a mother trying to find her son in the 1920s, who ends up taking on a corrupt police department.CLINT Eastwood’s latest directorial feature film Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie and John Malkovich, deals with a corrupt enforcement system, a mother searching for her lost son, and above all, hope and justice.It opens in cinemas nationwide on Feb 5.

Here’s a question-and-answer with the award-winning director:

QUESTION: Once upon a time, there was a lone man with a gun. Now, there’s a single mum with just her words, “He’s not my son”. What happens to the man, the filmmaker, who so many still identify with The Lone Gunmen?
ANSWER: The Lone Gunmen just grows into something different, that’s all. I think I’ve enjoyed telling different stories and being involved.

There are some stories you can’t portray as an actor going through life, but you can portray if you can direct films and tell stories about other people. You can tell about the lone woman trying to find her son and the drama, and complications of a story like that.

Sometimes fictional stories are great fun, sometimes true stories are great fun.

This story was not a fun story. It’s a very tough story in a lot of ways, but true. It happened, and I think it shows the perseverance of a woman in that particular time in history when women didn’t have that many rights or they weren’t given the confidence to really defend themselves.

Q: Part of Christine Collins seems suited for Angelina Jolie, a lioness of a mother fighting for her child. What was the appeal of the story for you? What was the most important part for you?

A: All of that. It was the mother fighting for her child. Here’s a woman, who had a job as a supervisor in a phone company and probably a pretty good job for a woman in those days.

Most supervisors were probably men. Christine had everything. She was trying to make her career, advance it, and then her son goes missing and it changes her whole life.

She has to take time off, expending a lot of effort on his behalf. The police department instead just dismiss it as some sort of hallucination or something like that. Then, when the police find this kid who says he’s the kid, they say, well that’s it. We’ll make it work.

So there’s no DNA or fingerprinting or anything like that in those days. It was just the police’s words and hers. The police actually talked Christine into the real irony.

There are quite a few ironies in the story, but the real irony is that they talked her into taking the kid home on a trial basis, so that she would soon realise that it was her son.

I guess she was so desperate to have her son back that she said she would do that. She did, and realised then it wasn’t her son, as she knew all along.

Then they threw her in a psychiatric ward and did all kinds of crazy things to her without any defence of the law on her side.

Q: How much was this an extra bonus for you that it was a true story, a long- forgotten scandal, but with a universal appeal?

A: Well, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Sometimes that is the case, but I like fictional stories. Stories don’t have to be necessarily true, but this one was. These people all existed.

Throughout filming this film, I would sit there and think during the day and say, you know, this person actually went through this. This person actually existed.

I love the dialogue the police chief had in the picture; it was right out of the newspaper clippings of that time. Just figure when the chief of police can stand up and say I want all criminals taken off the street dead, not alive.

If a police chief said that nowadays, everybody would be shocked. But that was the philosophy then.

I don’t know what people thought of in those days. They must have thought, well, he’s very tough and probably protecting us and society. But unfortunately, he wasn’t.

Q: What’s your personal explanation for how these things could happen at all? How a public institution like the police of Los Angeles could go so corrupt?

A: Yes, it’s amazing. In fact, it’s always a good reminder, I suppose, historically, that these things can happen. That no matter what time in history, there’s always the element of corruption nudging against society.

One has to always be diligent and aware that not necessarily enough is being done to really solve the case or to really serve the people.

In Christine’s case, nobody was there. She did have this Presbyterian Minister, Gustav Briegleb, who had this obsession about the corruption of the police department and his own radio show.

He heard of Christine’s case and then came to assist her in getting over the hurt and with going after the police.

Q: Now, in this special film, it’s about child abduction. You have a child of your own of similar age. Was this probably another reason why you wanted to make this story?

A: I don’t know it too well at all because I’ve never had that experience, but I just wanted to tell it because I thought it was an important story to tell.

I don’t think you have to live through sequences to tell a good story. I think your imagination can do the rest.

It’s not hard to sympathise with this woman and her plight. It isn’t hard to sympathise with any victim of crime. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t sympathise enough.

Society can get complacent and say, oh well, what the heck; it’s not affecting me or my family, so they don’t think about it.

Q: How easy was it for you to recreate this special era on film?

A: It wasn’t that hard, but it did take some doing because we had to find neighbourhoods where the homes were built in the 1920s. Some of those neighbourhoods were in moderate condition.

What we offered people for using their neighbourhood was to fix up or paint their houses. So we were a benefit to the neighbourhood.

Then there’s getting Los Angeles as it was then. There are a lot of big buildings now. At that particular time, there was a City Hall building and the rest of the buildings were rather small by today’s standards.

I remember when I first came to Los Angeles in the ’50s and I went to college in Los Angeles, there were very few tall buildings. Los Angeles was much like it was in the ’20s.

So I remember how the street cars were, the red street cars that all had wires. Everything’s different now. So we had to replace all that and do some of it visually and some of it with normal effects. — Courtesy of United International Pictures

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