Ten years after his controversial “Happiness” caused a stir, touching on themes of pedophilia and rape, Todd Solondz is back with the quasi-sequel, “Life During Wartime,” which confirmed the ultra-indie helmer still has a taste for dark humor and twisted American lives, as it bowed promisingly on the Lido.
“I don’t mean to be pessimistic: We live in a time in which (Barack) Obama is president, which of course is a major achievement for the country,” Solondz told Variety. “But that’s not an elixir. So I just try to examine things as truthfully as I can.”
Explaining the pic’s title, which is merely allegorical, given that there are no concrete references to armed conflict in the film, Solondz said, “We live in this time of war, but yet we are so insulated from its reality.”
Child abuse, instead, is very present in a literal sense in “Wartime,” as is the theme of dysfunctional parenthood, to put it mildly. And of course, each character is trapped in a world of extreme loneliness and alienation.
“My movies are there to provoke, but in a way that provokes us to think,” Solondz said. “They reflect the way in which I see the world. It’s not a world without hope; but hope has a price, and we have to think about the nature of hope.”
However, Solondz underlined that he played up the satirical side of his “Wartime” characters, who are not conceived as being naturalistic.
“The comedy and the pathos with which these characters are portrayed is what moves me. It’s not about succeeding in one’s struggles, it’s about the struggle itself,” he said.
He also stressed that he never intended the film to pick up where “Happiness” left off, or for all the characters to continue the ones in the previous pic.
“I wanted to have the freedom to just re-create and play with these characters,” said Solondz. “If I need to change them, I change them.”
As for the long gestation of the film, which is the first produced by new Minneapolis-based indie production and finance shingle Werc Werk Works, Solondz said he benefited “from the extra time that passed in terms of the way (the material) was reshaped.”
He and cinematographer Ed Lachman also made the most of monetary constraints by shooting with a small, state-of-the art RED digital camera on which Lachman mounted his set of vintage lenses from the 1950s and ’60s.