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A professor of mine once observed that in the novels of Theodore Dreiser, money is mentioned on almost every page. And money appears in so many scenes that you shoot. One of the ways Samantha teaches Cyril to be responsible and self-sufficient is by teaching him to be responsible with money.
LD: Absolutely. That's why in our films we like to have a little scene where the character goes and buys something in a store. You know, he pays, they say, "This is how much it is." He says, "Ok." There's a contract between them. You know, you learn the value of things. And he respects that contract.
In some ways, it's very striking the way the character of the father begins by feeling guilty for not being there for his son. Lying and saying "I'll call you." And then doesn't even say that. Would it be accurate to say that this is in some ways a film about what motivates people to be responsible to each other? What does motivate that? Is it guilt or obligation or something more mysterious?
LD: I hope it's not guilt solely. I mean, I hope it's also empathy. The fact that, if somebody is suffering, you suffer with them. Under normal circumstances. Well, you don't if you're perverse and you actually take pleasure in seeing another human suffer.
Guilt can also push somebody towards that. I mean, for instance if Cyril's father learned that he had done something really bad, then maybe it might push him to think, 'Wow, maybe it's because of me that he ended up doing something bad. That he met somebody like that."
I mean, guilt ok, maybe. Unless it becomes almost pathological. But otherwise I think guilt is kind of a good thing.
To change the subject completely; when I told a colleague I was interviewing you, he said, "Well you have to ask them about Resident Evil. Are they fans? How did that end up in the film?" Although your films depict a world that feels very familiar to us, there's very little pop culture in them generally. So Resident Evil stands out even more.
J-PD: It's because... [Brief, bilingual crosstalk, during which filmmakers and interviewers explain to translator that Resident Evil is a film and video game series beloved by an older boy, a malevolent influence in the film.] Well, that's why it pops up, its a character that's known to most people. And that's the first time we've done that. You know, the fact that we're using pop culture to underscore one of our characters who's playing a character in the game...
LD: What interested us about the character is that he mimicked, he was an imitator. He was a boy that was playing a part. And, you know, bad numbers are often people that are playing a part and are watching themselves play the part.
In the first film of Terrence Malick, Badlands, you remember the main character is imitating James Dean. People that are doing those kind of deeds are always imitating a character.
Would it be accurate to say that the end of many of your films shows the characters demonstrating what they've learned in the film? A capacity for empathy that was lacking earlier?
LD: It's true. That's a little bit what we're trying to do. We kind of always make the same movie.
It's true that the characters in our movies meet someone else. And they accept this meeting of someone else. Because it's very difficult. It's very difficult to meet someone else, to go towards someone else. One has more of a tendency of closing in.
J-PD [in English]: We are optimists.