If you were looking for a demonstration of how skillful execution can elevate a cliché pitch into a strong film, you couldn't do much better than Things We Lost in the Fire, Danish director Susanne Bier's American debut. Things We Lost in the Fire follows Audrey Burke (Halle Berry) a wife and mother whose world changes when her husband Brian (David Duchovny) is slain in a random moment of brutal violence. In her grief -- and desperate to maintain a sense of connection to her dead husband -- she reaches out to Brian's life-long fallen friend Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), a recovering heroin addict. She offers him a place to stay; the better question is, what does Jerry offer Audrey?
Bier's 2006 After the Wedding was an Oscar Nominee for Best Foreign Film; her 2004 release Brothers followed two siblings -- one as he adapted to life outside of prison and the other as he dealt with his military posting in Afghanistan. (A remake of Brothers, slated to star Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman, was recently announced.) Cinematical spoke with Biers in San Francisco about working with her acclaimed cast, adapting to working with American crews and studios, child actors, shooting people you like, and more as part of a roundtable interview; Cinematical's questions are indicated.
Cinematical: Watching Things We Lost in the Fire, I felt a strong sense of thematic parallelism with Brothers -- these two separate films, but at the same time they're about these families remaking themselves in the light of tragedy. Was that something that you consciously thought of when you read the script for Things We Lost in the Fire, something you wanted to explore again?
Susanne Bier: Actually, I read the script and I thought '"Ooh, there are some parallels to Bothers: Do I want to do that?" And then I kind of felt that ... firstly, in Brothers, I kind of felt the female part was slightly unexplored; I mean, she could have been the main character, but that was not the story in Brothers. And I all the time had the feeling that there was another kind of story to tell, about her. And suddenly, I had a script, where this story was told, and I felt it was really compelling. And secondly, I've never ever dealt with a drug addict (in film) and I don't have any personal experience with that, and I'm not an addictive personality; I don't really have a sense of it, But I was really fascinated by it. And part of moviemaking is also sort of stirring up your own curiosity; at least, it is for me. I have to be really curious about stuff, and really kind of fascinated by it. And I was really fascinated by the notion of these two highly unlikely people who were going to somewhat save each other; this very unconventional love story. So even if there were parallels, there were a lot more things that weren't the same, and that really drew me to (Things We Lost in the Fire).