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Johnny Depp on His Menacing Shades in ‘Waiting for the Barbarians’

In Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s drama about immigration and integration “Waiting for the BarbariansJohnny Depp plays the ruthless Colonel Joll, a torturer who is in charge of the security situation on the border and who clashes with a morally upright magistrate.

In Venice, where the film premiered on Friday in competition, Depp said Guerra gave him the perfect prop for this role. A special pair of mean metal shades.

“When Ciro came up with that shape…They were threatening; they were menacing somehow,” Depp said. And “the fact that he didn’t take them off,” added to the threat.

“He wore them to make the magistrate as uncomfortable as possible,” Depp added.

“I think he’s learned a number of tricks over the years. He realized that stillness and silence and quiet, and holding your response to a question, is quite disturbing to the person on the other side,” Depp went on to point out.

Mark Rylance, who plays the magistrate, said that what helped him get into his role was the realization “that we are part of a barbaric culture,” by living in England “due to the imperialism of the English nation.”

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The actions that South African novelist J. M. Coetzee, whose novel by the same title the film is based on, “describe steps that the magistrate is going through that are very understandable,” he said. At first he tries to ignore the torture and “then it arrives at your door in the form of a poor young girl whose been crippled and blinded, and you bring that person into your heart, and you try and rescue them,” he noted.

The problem, Rylance went on, is that the magistrate’s attempt to rescue the young woman “is also just a form of power.”

It’s “just a form of affirming that I’m the powerful one, and you’re the victim,” he underlined.

“The characters that Johnny and I play are really two sides of the same coin,” said Rylance.

“The torturer and the rescuer are both still in danger of victimizing the people that they are torturing or rescuing. That is the remarkable thing about this story for me.”

Guerra, the director, pointed out that when he first read the novel, which he adapted together with Coetzee, he found it to be “a powerful allegory.”

“It was very connected…to things done in the past,” Guerra said. But then “during the process of making the film it became less and less an allegory and more and more connected to the present.”


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