Vicente Amorim was born in Wien, Austria, in 1966, but he has spent most of his life in Brazil. In 2003, he directed Wagner Moura and Cláudia Abreu in O Caminho das Nuvens, his first time directing on his own.
To direct Good, based on the play Good by C.P. Taylor, Amorim returned to Europe, specifically to Hungary, where this story that takes place in Hitler's Germany was shot. "Budapest looks more like Berlin than Berlin itself," explains the director.
Viggo Mortensen, Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, stars in the movie, in a role that earned him enthusiastic compliments at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. This production is also closing the Rio Festival.
The director talked to Abril about his experience directing an international production for the first time and also revealed his enthusiastic hopes that the lead actor would get an Oscar nod.
Up until Good, your career was restricted to Brazil. How did you get involved with this movie?
I was invited by the producer, Miriam Seagal, who is English and Jewish, and has been chasing this project for 20 years. Because of her vision of the story she didn't want a European director, who already had some "luggage" on the issue. Then she thought of Latin American directors and she saw my movie, O Caminho das Nuvens. That happened three and a half years ago.
And what attracted you to the project?
Good is a move that shows a very original view on Nazism in Germany. Instead of being like all the other movies, from the British point of view, the Russians or the victims, it's an inside look. Not of the Nazi's machine but of the ordinary German citizen, a good man who becomes involved with that machine. It's the perspective of someone that's living in Germany in that time. I wanted to take the audience to Viggo's character's point of view, confronting them with the choices he would have had to make back then.
Can we say it's a more realistic vision on the subject?
Not exactly, but it could be. It's a simpler vision. The choices Viggo's character makes are quiet similar to those made nowadays. Every choice we make is political. This movie is a reflection about the choices we make. It's a thriller, of course, but an existentialist one, though I don't want to sound pretentious.
During the creative process for the movie did you seek inspiration from other works?
I've had the privilege to work directly with the play. Then I started researching. And anyone who doesn't live locked up in his bathroom is familiar with the subject. I started doing more and more research. I found some books more closely related to my work: A Social History of the Third Reich, by Richard Grunberger, and What We Knew, by Karl- Heinz Reuband and Eric A. Johnson, the last one being extraordinary. It has stories from both German and Jewish people about everyday life back then. That story is usually presented from a wide point of view, including its consequences and developments. And the way people influence history was the thing that captivated me the most. Besides the books, I was also inspired by the movies The Conformist (1970), by Bernardo Bertolucci, and Mephisto, by István Szabó.
What was it like to shoot in Budapest? How long were you there?
We shot for two months in Budapest. We chose the city mainly because it looks more like [World War II] Berlin than Berlin itself, which was greatly ravaged during the war. There was hand-to-hand fighting in Budapest, the city wasn't bombed as much. So it has a romantic style, like the one of Berlin in that time. It was a lot more similar than any other German city. Besides, the Hungarians have a long movie tradition and offer production incentives.
Fernando Meirelles once said he has just as much freedom working with foreign or Brazilian producers. Did you feel the same?
I was given plenty of freedom by the producers, both in the structuring and the script. It was a very rich collaborative process. Obviously, being such a sensitive subject and with the play so famous, there was some extraordinary source material made by them. But I had a lot of freedom to create, with Miriam, and then Viggo, a vision on the matter. But I obviously had a great responsibility towards the producers and financiers and specially an artistic responsibility towards the material. But it never became a "prison", very much the opposite. I had all the freedom to work my way, but always collaboratively. To say I thought about absolutely everything that's on screen would just be petulant.
What about dealing with a bigger budget?
Good has a $15 million budget. O Caminho das Nuvens had about $2 million. An independent movie of $15 million is the equivalent to R$8 or 9 million in Brazil. Compared to big studio movies, it was cheap. It wasn't that hard because I had my previous experience as an assistant director, many times in foreign productions, such as Moon over Parador (1988, by Paul Mazursky). It was something new as a director, for sure, but it wasn't my first time working in that system. The "butterflies in my stomach" would still be there if I had a $500 thousand budget. There's always that feeling: "Will it work? Will I make it right?"
And working with Viggo Mortensen, an actor who got huge international recognition with The Lord of the Rings. Were there any problems with the fans on set?
No, there were none. He has absolutely no "star-factor" and is very collaborative, open, very concerned about delivering his vision, about helping to build not only his character, but the best movie possible. As to any harassment, there was nothing worth mentioning. As we were making a period movie we had to isolate the areas, so it just didn't happen. And even when it did, he was always very solicitous. In that kind of thing, a movie star only makes the news when he or she refuses to meet the fans. When he or she is cool and easy, people don't dramatize it.
There's already some speculation about a possible Oscar nod for Viggo...
I'm buying a pack of candles so that the dream comes true [laughs]. He's great, but if he gets nominated the credit is mainly his. The critic Rex Reed [New York Observer] said he is an "unmatchable chameleon". I think he deserves it, but I'm only hoping. We know how it works, there's a lot of politics involved, but he deserves it.