Wednesday, February 12, 2014


I was recently invited to a special preview screening of The Two Faces of January, the directorial debut of screenwriter Hossein Amini, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival last night. The film is an adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel of the same name. which will invite inevitable comparisons with The Talented Mr Ripley; but this is a tighter, more subtle film that plays on the tension between the performances of Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.  It's the relationship between Chester and Colette Macfarland (Mortensen and Dunst) and Rydal (Oscar Isaac) under the blazing sun of Greece and Turkey which drives the film. Any other characters are incidental.

It's the summer of 1962. First we see Chester and Colette as wealthy vacationing Americans, singled out by the shady small time con-man Ryder, who works as a tour guide, short-changing pretty American tourists. As the story unfolds, the position of who is not to be trusted changes places between Chester and Ryder several times, with the complication that Ryder is now implicated in Chester's much darker crime, and the Macfarlands are indebted to him for helping them flee Greece and the police. Eventually the action becomes a straight battle of wits between the two men, each desperate to escape, but unable to disentangle themselves.

The costumes by Steven Noble hit just the right spot - again, subtle. Viggo Mortensen's white linen suit's deterioration from pristine to crumpled follows the story arc to a T. Kirsten Dunst only has three or four costumes - all pitched perfectly. The backdrop of bright Greek sunshine and holiday resorts to what is essentially a film noir is a great contrast - also highlighting the Greek tragedy elements of the story.

{Released in the UK on 2 May 2014}