It was Fateless that led me to Evening. After my life’s work
as a cinematographer, Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész asked
me to direct the story of his days in Auschwitz, an interpretation
that above all would preserve linearity in the Holocaust universe.
There could be no manipulation of time or exploration of side streets.
The story had to be told directly as it was lived: a year of the unknowable
seen through the eyes of a boy. Every step taken straight to the end.
We were most interested then in people more than surroundings, the
boy and his soul and his attempts to understand his place. There is
danger in knowing too much, but his resilience and perception lead
him only towards survival. Here is a boy seized, forced to have a life
that has never been his. This is how we understand what it means to
be fateless. But here too is a boy who glimpses hope where it cannot
be, and keeps it by him throughout.
It was a real gift to read the script for Evening, my first American
movie as a director. American audiences had seen Fateless at a number
of festivals and responded to it on a very personal level. It was meant
as a tale of the individual, but indeed was also the struggle of human
beings, and in that sense, carried a universal message. Evening is
also a tale known to all.
Two worlds meet in the film. The first introduces us to Vanessa Redgrave as the
lady Ann Lord. In the last embraces of a life that has been difficult, beautiful
and unrepeatable, Ann is in and out of dreams, of recent and former times, reliving
memories aloud and speaking names new to the family. Too often the moments that
define the lives of those most important to us go unnoticed.
As younger generations make their way, we run the risk of forgetting or not knowing
the wisdom of those that came before—of family and forebears, what we’ve
done and left undone, what has been possible and might be possible still. Ann’s
daughters, portrayed by Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette, long to make sense
of their sacred mother’s musings when there might only be time for farewell.
The world she remembers is a lush 1950s wedding in Newport. It’s a desirable
place to be—friends, sunshine, salt water and youth—and constitutes
the thoughts in Ann’s mind. Bridesmaid dresses, worn tuxedos, crowns of
flowers and whiskey glasses. Ann was young here once, fervently in love and desperately
loved. She flourishes in the company of her memories.
This film tries to look at the important problems in our lives: our attempts
to find security, our search for someone to have us. It examines the decisions
we make, too soon or never at all. If lucky, it is the right one, even if it
is painful. You make your decision and carry it through your life.
Our waking days intertwine with our past, and we realize our wars didn’t
change. It will be who you are, where you’re going, who you belong to and
the only thing that belongs to you, love and your moment, kept with you always
in its golden frame.