"Memory " stills
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Hollywood “Demon King” Tilda Swinton: Inside and outside the movie, a maverick life

She has the same good educational background as many “scholar” actors in the UK. She graduated from Cambridge University, majoring in social and political science and English literature. She is a poet, a modern artist, a curator… She is tall and hermaphrodite. The face, the muse of artists and designers; her glowing white complexion and green eyes, David Bowie-like appearance, made many lovers laugh at her alien origin.
She’s also a true English aristocrat, though she doesn’t take titles seriously; she went to boarding school as a child and was a classmate of the late Princess Diana, but she was outspoken against boarding.
This is Tilda Swinton.

The Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia

It’s hard to talk about Tilda’s life in one interview, so we can only start with the works. We had a chance to chat with her about her “Memory” with Thai director Apichatpong when it won the Jury Prize at the last Cannes Film Festival. In the film, Tilda’s Jessica, who has lived in Colombia for many years, often hears an eerie loud bang after her husband dies and her sister gets sick in the hospital. The sound came without warning, sometimes in sleep, sometimes while Jessica was talking to others, and it was clear that only she could hear it. Jessica began to search for the source of the sound, and she met the sound engineer Hernan, who helped her simulate the strange soundtrack in her head, and then mysteriously disappeared in her life as if it had never appeared. Until she met a man with the same name deep in the Colombian jungle.

What kind of process is a movie brewing for 17 years?

Tilda Swinton :Joe and I met at Cannes 17 years ago (Apichatpong is the English nickname of the director, and Apichatpong is referred to in the conversation) at Cannes. I was a member of the jury that year, and we were proud to have The film “Tropical Illness” that Joe made won an award, and we became friends .
We started discussing the film at that time, and after that, we made a lot of works together, such as some videos, and we also held a film festival in Thailand together. But in the long run we always come back to talk about the movie, or rather, the seeds of the movie. It should be said that Joe started this step, and then it was the process of us slowly making the film take shape.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

As for why it took seventeen years, it’s because watching a movie is different from making a movie, and it takes a lot of work to get a movie to end up as a work, and it takes an open mind to get the job done. It took us seventeen years to figure out what exactly we wanted to do. But once we started shooting, it was actually very fast, and the actual shooting took only three months. In these seventeen years, we have to keep our beliefs. This is something we must keep. It is like walking a tightrope, but it is actually very hard. But in order to maintain that feeling of dreaming, you must be like a swan, to keep calm and graceful on the water, and to keep paddling your legs underwater. You have to do all kinds of coordination on a regular basis in the team, and also give yourself enough time to do the work.

When director Apichatpong said he was going to shoot in Colombia, what did you think?

Tilda Swinton :Ah I totally understand why he chose there! You know that in his work, among other things, there is always a relationship with trauma, not only the trauma of people, but the trauma of the land of Thailand that he is constantly exploring.We needed to find a place that was both different and had this commonality, and he found it in Colombia and I found it in Colombia.
One of the things that looks funny but is actually really sad is that in 2019 we felt like we were making a movie about the past, about memory, but it’s clear now that we actually did A film that is absolutely about the present – and right now, that trauma has flared up again.

Director Apichatpong said in an interview that “Jessica in the movie, that character is not Tilda”. What is this difference he is referring to?

Tilda Swinton :Jessica she’s in trouble and I’m not. I am connected to society, and I am very happy to be connected to society. Jessica is isolated, and while we don’t specifically explain why she’s isolated, it’s mentioned at the beginning of the movie that her husband has a death certificate, so it should be understood that maybe her husband passed away recently. She may be in pain, half on earth and half in hell.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

Then she heard the loud noise during insomnia, as if the whole soul ran out, although the person is here but the heart is elsewhere. In the movie, she also sometimes tries to communicate with the outside world, to connect, like the scene in the restaurant. When she’s with her family, she tries to socialize, but not only does she keep hearing the noise, she can’t even decide what she’s going to eat, she just doesn’t have that in mind. I think it is very important that she maintains this isolation and detachment throughout the filming process.

So how do you go about this role? Is having long hair one of the ways?

Tilda Swinton :Haha yes! I mean, we knew that Jessica in the movie needed to be as inconspicuous as possible. There are things I can’t change, like my skin tone, and my height, which even in Scotland stands out a bit. But we still wanted to make Jessica a wandering ghost and wanted her to be flexible, so we wanted her shape to be a little blurry.So in the long view, she often wears menswear, just to remove her connection to the outside world. We want to get her out of society, or rather, me out of society, so I can walk and act and think like her. That was our plan, so I had to keep my hair on for months just to reduce any social feeling, not even just to change the look, but to change that feeling.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

We all know that Apichatpong’s films are slow-paced, which means a lot of long shots for actors, not close-ups. How do you feel about this?
Tilda Swinton :I think the language of the lens is very illuminating to me. I also do these long takes a lot with Joanna Hogg and it’s a very rewarding way of working for me. Long takes are often improvised, which means that in these long takes, from performance to interval, you are coordinating energy, either alone or with others. In fact, even if you’re the only person in the shot, you’re coordinating energy with the landscape, furniture, or anything in the scene.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

Like the first shot in the film, Jessica got up, and she took 7 minutes. And Joe is there training or encouraging the audience, “Listen, don’t wait for something to happen. This woman is getting up, she’s not in a hurry, the camera moves like this.” And then we see, she’s reflected in the mirror, Then she went to the door. I really enjoyed being immersed in the character and orchestrating these subtle actions, and I really enjoyed the process.
I was serious! For me, the process is somewhat closer to dance. A while ago, Olivier Saillard and I did an art performance in Rome about Pasolini’s film styling, which was almost an experience like this, using your body and experience to present a story.

Director Apichatpong said that he has a bad memory, so he is interested in “memory”. What is your understanding of “memory”?

Tilda Swinton :That’s a good question. I think all of us, when we get to a certain age, start looking back more. I’ve had a very strange few years because of my career, and I’ve been encouraged to look back. I’ve done a few reviews of my work and it’s been a real pain. I love new things and my attitude to every day of my life and every movie is that every piece is my first piece. So, always being reminded that you have a cabinet full of old stuff isn’t exactly a pain, but it’s embarrassing.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

Not long ago, I met a very interesting neurologist who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease. He talked to me about the connection between forgetting and health, and he said that being able to forget things has some value, even significant value, to the mind. I think the older Hernan character in the movie who said “I can’t take anything anymore because I remember everything” and that’s his personal predicament, he’s like a sponge full of water and can’t take any more anything. Hernan’s dilemma, the opposite of Jessica’s, is interesting. Jessica’s brain is a receiver, and she can’t actually hold anything in her head, which makes her feel like a ghost in a way.
I wish we were somewhere in between. Perhaps like everyone else on the planet, my memory has improved during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last summer, I watched a lot of David Attenborough movies, so my memory was connected to David Attenborough, which is the memory bank.

You are not only an actor, but also a co-producer in the film “Memory”. The Chinese director Jia Zhangke is also the co-producer of the film. Recently, he said a lot about you on his social media. Words of praise, and Chinese fans starting to write the script for his next movie with you.

Tilda Swinton :Oh my goodness! Start shooting!

Did you meet him when you were making the movie? Or are there any opportunities for cooperation?

Tilda Swinton :I’d love to work with him on a film, I want you to spread the word! It would be a great honor. It’s an honor to be associated with him on this film, it’s a wonderful thing to work with him in any form.

Speaking of which, you have really worked with many international directors.

Tilda Swinton :Yeah, I’m so lucky, I’d say, they’re all real filmmakers, they’re all one-of-a-kind. I can also reveal that my film with George Miller, another great predecessor, is also coming out next year. They’re all real people, strong enough to do the movie thing well, and each has their own strong style. There is a real friendship between us.

"Memory " stills
“Memory ” stills

The last thing I did with them was an honours award and retrospective from the British Film Institute (BFI) before the UK lockdown last March. BFI is a bit like my school because my first film was born at BFI. Now Joanna and I are also working with BFI like I never left school. Because of this event, I had the perfect opportunity to invite my guests to a dinner party. They said, who do you want to invite? You can invite anyone you want.

I said I wanted to invite all my collaborators to dinner. I can’t list them all for you, but you see Bong Joon Ho is from Seoul, Luca Guadagnino is from Milan, and Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson… can’t believe I attended This dinner. These people represent late 20th century, early 21st century cinema. Joe wasn’t there because he couldn’t leave Thailand, but the experience was amazing, and I’m so grateful, as a movie buff, how lucky I am to be able to work with people who are totally committed to movies.