Despite a relatively ‘cool’ trailer, I haven’t been too interested in seeing Keanu’s post-Matrix opus, Constantine. However, this NYTimes interview with Tilda Swinton, in which she adamantly asserts the film has a topical political subtext, has piqued my interest:
HILARY DE VRIES: “Constantine” is quite a departure for you. What interested you in the film?
TILDA SWINTON: I loved the idea of a blockbuster film that talks about good and evil at a time when everyone is talking about good and evil and the “axis” thereof, and the rest of us are expected to just sort of swallow it. It felt like it had the capacity to be a radical political film.
Q. It’s a complete departure from the Bible.
A. Yes, but it is absolutely not a departure from real life as we are living it today, in the grip of people who are dressing themselves up as God’s right hand and taking us into war. The challenge was to make sure Gabriel never turns into an evil demon, that we see how he engineers this extraordinarily violent apocalypse out of love. Which is sort of the situation we’re all in now … [i]n that the attitude of righteousness is a reason for pretty much anything now. What’s shocking is how easily that’s peddled today. It’s like Gabriel’s rationale. I don’t remember the exact lines, but it’s essentially, “My job is to get as many souls as possible to heaven, and I have noticed that you are at your most spiritually open when the place is in flames, so I’m going to torch the joint.” It’s a beautiful piece of reasoning, and it’s a righteous argument, but it’s terrifying.
Q. Religious absolutism can be found in many places.
A. True, there is all sorts of religious extremism all over the place, but the reason for this partly has to do with the fascist attitudes and language of absolutism coming from Washington. It’s challenging for people outside of America that Bush was re-elected. It means we’re all going to have to work a lot harder to understand what so many more Americans than we thought really want. It’s an identity shift in our minds about America and maybe for many Americans as well.
Q. And you think this film will resonate along those lines? It’s not overtly political.
A. I don’t think there is any way that it won’t. Actually, there were a couple of moments in my speeches that were more politically on the nose, and they were cut, and I’m actually glad they were. We don’t want to date the film, but also we don’t want to alienate people who need to do new thinking about this. We’re not only preaching to the converted, but we also want to speak to those people who think they know what righteousness is.
UPDATE 2/26/05: I saw the movie last night. Tilda is barely in it, but fascinating when she is. As for the movie having political implications — it’s huge stretch. The movie’s a watchable and visually intense bit of Catholicism porn, but I doubt it will influence much more than a few more million dollars out of Hellblazer fans.
UPDATE 5/10/2005: Tilda Swinton has signed on to play The White Witch in the new Chronicles of Narnia movie, produced by Bush backer Philip Anschutz. So I guess that rules out any chance of her politics clouding her paychecks. Also, I added the Amazon link to the Constantine 2-disc DVD with comic book. For those genuinely interested, it’s an awesome special edition.