Los Angeles: Atom Egoyan, Cairo-born, Canadian-bred and of Armenian descent, is one of the most celebrated contemporary filmmakers on the international scene. I met him at the Four Season Hotel in Beverly Hills, where he came to talk about his latest feature film Adoration, which was at the Cannes Film Festival, in the official selection, last year, and is about to be released in the US.
In spite of being quizzed by the media for the past few days about the movie, Egoyan is still smiling and eager to talk about it and to discuss its underlying themes. He was accompanied by his actors: Devon Bostick, Scott Speedman and Rachel Blanchard.
Adoration is a film about a high school student who re-imagines himself to be the son of a terrorist who sends his pregnant girlfriend on an El Al flight bound for Israel with a bomb in her suitcase, without her knowledge. While his fantasy was catching the imagination of internet chatters and sparking heated arguments, he was using it to journey deeper into his past and to probe his family secrets.
“I am fascinated by the complexity of humans and their relationships, and in this movie I wanted to explore how we relate to and communicate with each other and our families via the new medium of technology,” Egoyan said.
To better understand adolescents’ approaches to internet communication, Egoyan conducted sessions in a number of Toronto high schools, interviewing students and setting up workshops for several months. Using six to eight cameras, Egoyan initiated chats and had the students regard the cameras as though they were looking at each other, to gauge how comfortable they were with the medium.
In spite of the political subtext that his film carries, Egoyan was not keen on discussing that, and insisted that the film is only about the way humans communicate. “Miscommunications that lead to hate and anger, stem from ignorance and the lack of desire to know and learn about the other,” he stresses.
Once Egoyan casts his actors, he offers them the freedom to interpret their roles and express themselves as they wish. In fact, he imagined a completely different character for the Uncle, but when he met with Scott Speedman, who looks much younger than the character, he changed his mind. “I possess the anger that the character has,” Speedman quipped. Egoyan was convinced and gave him the role.
Adoration was Rachel Blanchard’s second collaboration with Egoyan after What lies Beneath. “Atom creates a clam atmosphere on set and writes interesting stories. He is really good at talking to actors and translating his ideas to notes that help understand what he wants; something you rarely find with directors,” she said. 17 year-old Devon nods his head in agreement. “Egoyan gives the actors the confidence that what they are doing is right, and if it doesn’t work, he gives a second chance. He knows exactly what he wants and that what makes it wonderful to work with him,” Devon added.
In spite of Egoyan’s obsession with exploring new technology, he insists on shooting on film; he shot Adoration on 35mm film. He admits, with great regret, that shooting on film has become antiquated quickly, and for purely practical reasons the language is simply disappearing.