Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst brought an Alfred Hitchcock-inspired thriller to life at the Berlin Film Festival this past week. The Two Faces of January premiered at the festival Tuesday, and also stars Oscar Isaac. This films marks the directorial debut of Iranian-British screenwriter Hossein Amini, known for writing the 2011 blockbuster Drive.
The film is based on a novel written by the late Patricia Highsmith. The U.S. crime writer was best known for penning The Talented Mr. Ripley. Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst star as an American couple–Chester and Colette–who are on vacation in Greece. After catching the eye of a Greek tour guide named Rydal–played by Oscar Isaac–the film takes a sudden turn. Soon murder, mystery and a love triangle all take center stage.
Mortensen says he was a huge fan of Highsmith and loved the ‘film noir aspects of the story.’
“It’s a term that’s thrown around a lot — it needs to have shadows, it needs to be black and white,” he said. “The only thing I would say is that the characters need to lie and lose, and it needs to end badly for everyone.”
He also believes in order for there to be intrigue, that all characters should have secrets.
“That’s what the story’s generally about: the masks, and the masks fall away, and what you end up seeing about these people is often ugly and embarrassing,” he said. “But when it’s well done, when the thriller aspect works in terms of storytelling, no matter how badly they behave you’re on their side somehow. You don’t want the cops to catch them.”
The Two Faces of January garnered mixed reviews at the Berlin Film Festival last week. The Daily Telegraph called it an “elegantly pleasurable period thriller, a film of tidy precision and class”. But movie website Indiewire summed it up as a “competent disappointment”. It will be very interesting to learn how it does back home in U.S. theaters.
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