It's all the 'Rage'


Eclectic British helmer Sally Potter is known for her way with actors and her innovative approach to material (note the visual design in her breakthrough "Orlando" or the iambic pentameter dialogue of "Yes"). Those talents are on full display with the Berlinale competition title "Rage." A murder mystery set in New York's fashion scene, it shows neither fashion nor the Big Apple, composed instead of a series of direct-to- camera confessionals that gradually reveal the tale.

Sally Potter: Well, although it's set in the fashion world, it's not about fashion, and you don't see anything of New York or the world of fashion. It is just these individuals over 10 days talking to a young boy we don't see who appears to be doing a school project. Then, because of what happens (a murder), they have the need to speak to him, and the interviews become like a confessional. But it could apply to any high-pressure industry where things start to go wrong. And I chose a murder mystery because it is a known genre with its own rules and laws that you can use to keep the audience hooked. And I do follow those laws, though perhaps not in the way some might expect.

Potter: The danger with doing anything about fashion is that it's out of date before it's on the screen. And New York is such an overfilmed place that around the world, I think people have their own vision of the city, even if they've never been there. So we don't really need to show it. The way we filmed it — digitally on a handheld camera with a very small set; I was the camera operator — allowed a very intimate approach. The actors just talking to this unseen and unheard diminutive person ... it's a celebration of "poor" cinema. Appropriate for these lean times.

Potter: Well, it's a good survival tactic. If you can't adapt these days, you are going to go under. And ecologically, it's good not to be wasteful. I think there is a need in the psyche right now for things with integrity, for not just throwing money around for its own sake.

Potter: It is possible now to make films in a different way. There was the idea that with digital cameras, there would be all these great films coming out. That hasn't happened. But the possibilities — with grading, with editing through Final Cut Pro — do allow you to do more with a smaller crew.

Potter: There are parallels with the film industry and with any kind of area where art and industry meet and where individuals are fearful of redundancy, which is pretty well everywhere at this point.

Potter: I think there is politics in everything, but it's mostly unconscious in this film. It's not a lecture but hopefully very funny and entertaining. But it is political in the sense that it's about fame, about the pursuit of celebrity and power and the dehumanizing effect that can have.

Potter: The cast is a mixture of the very famous and people just starting out. The common factor is that they are all incredibly good and incredibly nuanced at what they do. Every actor just came for two days, one actor at a time. They were totally exposed, with no props, no fancy special effects. It is really about the very intimate relationship between the actor and the camera.

Potter: It's a big honor, especially for such a film, which was made on the hoof, as it were. It's very exciting for all of us. And I have my usual stage fright because I have no idea how the film will be received. So I'm looking forward to it. (partialdiff)
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