Todd Solondz Talks ‘Life During Wartime’ at NYFF

Life During Wartime is sort of a sequel to director Todd Solondz’ 1998 film Happiness. I say “sort of” because although it features many of the same characters, none of the original performers remain. In a move that recalls the dizzying role re-assignment of Palindromes, Solondz has deliberately re-cast each part with a new actor. Gimmicky? Yeah, and it doesn’t add much of a new dimension to things if, like me, you haven’t seen Happiness since it was at the Angelica. That, said, I don’t think it takes much away either. After a screening at the New York Film Festival yesterday, Solondz fielded questions (from Singapore, via Skype) from the press corps about why he went back to go forward.

On where the idea to revisit previous work came from: I always feel that one never ends up doing what one plans. When I made Happiness ten years ago, I never thought I’d make a sequel. It was done. Move on. So…I never know what I’m doing.

On the re-casting of roles: I thought it would bring new light. I didn’t want to be beholden to the details of the first film. This is a different movie with different aims, and I like the idea of things being fluid, bringing out different colors and nuances. Nothing’s set in stone.

On the different mood of Life During Wartime: It evolved over the course of the writing. The theme of forgiveness works as kind of a lube for all of the trials and tribulations of these characters, so I think this picture is more sentimental. If Happiness ran hot and cold, I think Life During Wartime is a little warmer.

On shooting digital instead of film: I think when given certain economic restraints, you try to make them work for the film instead of being just another compromise. Digital has it’s own look. It’s different from film and you have to embrace it for what it is. It also takes the stress off of worrying so much about the cost of film.

On what he’s doing now: I’m teaching here in Singapore at NYU. It’s got a branch here. Like department stores have branches in other countries—DKNY, McDonald’s—now NYU does too.

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