Interview with Kathryn Bigelow, part 2

Now that I've shaken off all the fireworks I can correct all the typos in the last posting and put up the second half of this interview.

PK: Do you find it ironic this film came out (June 26 in NY and other locations) the same week the troops withdrew from Iraqi cities?

KB: I do find it ironic. When the studio set the release date back in January for now I think the withdrawal date was set for August. I don't think they could have anticipated it.

PK: Do you think because of this it will avoid the fate of other  films about the Iraq War?

KB: This is really the first film about the Iraq War. The others have not been about combat. If you were to go into Blockbuster and were looking for "Coming Home" it would be under "Drama." If you were looking for "Apocalypse Now" it would be under "War." So would "The Hurt Locker."  That's my scientific categorization.

PK: Is this the "Apocalypse Now" of Iraq?

KB: Our references are more "Battle of Algiers" or "Best Years of Our Lives." But what I do think "Hurt Locker" does and "Apocalypse Now" did for that conflict is that it unpacks the abstract and makes it concrete and tactile. It does take you there. Even though that was a much more well-observed conflict I mean there were photographers and reporter

PK: But they stopped doing that...

KB: They stopped doing that. For obvious reasons I suppose. But this conflict has been fairly abstract for the general public. I know when Mark [Boal, the screenwriter] was over there for his embed he came across maybe two or three other journalists. It was a multitude of reasons but mostly it was because it was just too dangerous. Certainly in 2004.

PK: These other films about Iraq also are political, unlike yours.

KB: If it's possible to make something non-partisan, unpacking the abstraction then you'd have a more informed opinion. We're filmmakers. It's not that the soldiers on the ground don't have diverse geopoliticsal perspectives. At the end of the day you're a bomb tech and walking down the street you're wondering if you're going to survive.

PK: And you're loving it. Or this guy is, anyway.

KB: That recklessness married to a profound skill set welded with a great authority may just be the combination that keeps him and his team alive.

PK: And then there's the pleasure of doing what you do best. As a filmmaker you identify with that.

KB:  I suppose it is a bit like that, I mean production is a bit like the kind of a skill set that you wield with authority combined with a kind of, I suppose, maybe not a recklessness but a bit of bravado, in that there's no playbook.  It's all prototypical.

PK: This reminds me of Hitchcock's bomb theory. I think it's another difference between your film and "Transformers" and films like that. He distinguishes between surprise and suspense. Surprise is when a bomb goes off suddenly but suspense is when you're watching people sitting at a table like this and underneath the table is a bomb and you know it's supposed to go off at a certain time.

KB: So you're ahead of the character. So surprise is when you and the character are in sync with one another, and suspense is like "Notorious" where you know that the key is down there and you know if they can -- right, you're ahead of the character.

PK: So your movie is more about suspense. You know the bomb is there and you're wondering when or if it's going to explode...

KB: And the suspense is so pervasive.

PK: So you have a retrospective coming up at the Harvard Film Archive?

KB: Yeah, we're doing "Hurt Locker" tonight.  I'm not sure what films they have been playing but I know they've been playing a few or they're upcoming or-

PK:  They're showing all of your features, from "The Loveless" to "The Hurt Locker."  This isn't the first retrospective you've had, is it? I think you had one in '87 when you only had two movies.

KB: Yeah I had one in '87 and actually there was one in Los Angeles just recently for "Hurt Locker" that kind of culminated in our ad hoc premiere. 

PK:  So do you become reflective when you have-

KB: I don't think I'm old enough for a retrospective though, I keep telling people.

PK: But you were in '87.

KB: I was old enough then, yes, exactly.  I'm moving in reverse.

PK: But they could have included some of your artwork too; or did they? 

KB: No, they didn't.  They didn't.  That's interesting. 

PK: Didn't you have a short film where there was like two guys whaling on each other while somebody read critical theory texts?

KB: "The Set-Up"-yeah.

PK: Is that your aesthetic in a nutshell? 

KB: I don't know if you've seen Amy Taubin's piece on "The Hurt Locker" in "Film Comment." only bring it up because it's hard for me to kind of stand outside whatever these pieces are, these films are, and look at some kind of, the connective tissue from an analytical mind. I guess I try to but maybe, anyway, she does all [that] and, and speaks a lot about "The Set-Up' and  it's relation to...

PK: "Hurt Locker."

KB: Yeah kind of pulling it all full circle.  It's very interesting.

PK: Also, naming the character William James...?


KB: The pragmatist philosopher.

PK: The author of "The Varieties of Religious Experience;" is that who he's based on? This is William James in Iraq?

KB: Well, you know, he's gotta be somewhere, right? 

PK: One thing I noticed in the movie is that the character doesn't really start getting in trouble until he goes beyond that range-that 300 meters, and wants to find out who the perpetrators are or the people that are watching him.  So he's breaking through the fourth wall to find the person that's watching him and that engages him in more danger than just doing the bomb.

KB: What's exciting as a filmmaker is the kind of careful callibration of the effects of war on this individual.  And you know, first you think this is a man who is unmoved by anything.  If you're standing over a daisy chain of six or seven 155s,  how can you possibly be disturbed by anything, basically?  And yet you realize in fact that the attritional effects of war are taking place.

PK:  He goes home and demonstrates with the jack-in-the-box to his infant son how all thrills are illusory.

KB: Well he's self-aware and I think, he's kind of giving himself the permission to embrace what he, what truly gives his life meaning, and a kind of sense of purpose and at the same you're able I think hopefully as a viewer is to understandcourage and heroism, the price of heroism, you know, it all comes at a cost. And yet what he does every day is save thousands and thousands and thousands of little boys?

PK:  Jeremy Renner, by the way, as William James. He was terrific.  You saw him first in "Dahmer?"


KB: I think, you know, it's the new, new wave of talent.

PK: On the other hand, Harrison Ford with a Russian accent [in "K-19"] didn't really work for me.


KB: Well, you know...Jeremy Renner is, I think he's the real deal.

PK: Was working with Ford part of  the reason why you didn't want to go and use a star again...

KB: Well, I wanted to keep the faces unfamiliar so you wouldn't have any anticipation or expectation on who's going to live or die based on their...

PK: Spoilers!

KB: Spoilers, exactly.  I mean, you know, if it's Tom Cruise he can't die.  Just there's that old adage.

PK: Or Janet Leigh.

KB: Well that.

PK: I'm giving that one away, too

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