The Director reveals the labyrinthine web hiding beneath his latest endeavor
Guy Ritchie is a happy fellow. Content with the World, it seems. And he is truly excited about his latest directorial effort entitled Revolver. While the film plays at conventions expected from Ritchie at this point, such as "high-octane" gunfights and rich dialogue, it also gives way to a more personal, subdued narrative. The underlining theme of Revolver deals with finding one's Id amongst the wreckage.
It's a film that you have to watch three or four times before you can fully understand where it's coming from. The exact angle it's trying to hit is hidden beneath layers of hurried exposition. Revolver wears the mask of an action film, but is hiding something deeper underneath its surface. Guy Ritchie knows that it's a hard film to swallow whole. And he is ready to explain himself and his intentions in Technicolor sound bites that are as confusing as they are insightful.
Walking into his suite at the Four Seasons, he offered me a candy sour out of a small dish. He then smiled, explaining his disdain with the last couple of interviewers that had recently graced his couch. I didn't catch the first part of this dissertation on tape, because he caught me completely off guard. We started with the question that he hates the most...
Are you beat down?
Guy Ritchie: I'm alright, actually. It's a funny thing. With most movies, I lose interest in talking about them within the first thirty seconds. The question I find most boring are, "What inspired you to choose such-and-such an actor?" I don't know. Because I though they were good? (Laughs) That's why you cast actors, isn't it? So please don't ask me why I cast my actors in this film. Please!
Maybe I'll start with something a little bit more interesting. When I was a kid, I would go get these books. And they would tell me all the interesting facts that happened on my birthday. I was always bummed out that Arnold Palmer was the only celebrity that shared my birthday. But now I find out they you were also born on the same day as both me and Arnold Palmer.
Guy Ritchie: What are you getting at, mate?
It's exciting to have someone other than Arnold Palmer who shares September 10th as a birthday. You're a Virgo, and Virgos are known for being very modest. That is one of their dominant traits. This film has a lot to do with Ego. I'm wondering why the Ego aspect of the storyline was so important to you? Especially when your personality type comes from a background of being more modest and unassuming. Does that make sense?
Guy Ritchie: It does, it does. Can I ask you what your personal definition of the Ego is?
Well, the definition of Ego is always misconstrued as someone who is boisterous and confident. Someone who is brawny and full of himself. There's also the scientific explanation that delves into the mind's Id.
Guy Ritchie: Well, that's the whole Freudian shit. Ego just means "I" in Italian. Now, the way you described it, I used to think that's what the ego was. Right? But that's not what it is. You have an inverted Ego. Your Ego is the personality that you think is you. It's your false personality, and you are kind of intertwined with the thing. You are unable to recognize you and it. Most of us think that a guy who is middle aged, and gets rid of his wife, and buys a sports car, and starts living large, that he's showing off his Ego. You think that super stars have Egos, and all of that. They always have to sit in the right seats. We have Ego in the terms that we understand it in a broad sense. But when you actually get into it, the Ego as a conceptualized self is much bigger than that. For example, shyness is inverted Ego. That is caring about what other people think of you. It's why you don't want to get up and speak publicly. People will think that you are a tremendously modest chap. But he's not that modest. He's inverted. So, the Ego is complicated. Well, actually, its not that complicated. But it doesn't want to be understood. The Ego is a thing that is in your subconscious. You believe it controls you. But you control it. Its this whole, full self. This film is about the fact that you are completely incarcerated by your conceptualized self. Now, the trick is, neither your mind, nor your Ego will let you understand it and be clear about it. It is very happy for you to think that Ego is a guy who is very boisterous and wants to be noticed. The Ego wants you to keep thinking that. Why? Because if you start recognizing the ego, you start taking power away from it. It is like a phantom self. I suppose.
So, when you are thinking in your brain, and you have two very different, distinct voices having a conversation with themselves, that is what you are talking about?
Guy Ritchie: That is exactly what I am talking about. People use it. People have different words for it. But all of that chattering you have in your noggin is essentially Egocentric. All of the suffering you go through is Egocentric. The subconscious is made up of ninety-nine percent suffering. And that all comes from the Ego.
Were you trying to show the complexities of the Ego in writing this screenplay?
Guy Ritchie: Well, inevitable I had to. Because that's what the screenplay was about. The screenplay was about the tricks of the mind. Right? So, inevitably, if you understand how a conman operates, you can then understand how the Ego operates. It simply wishes to use you against yourself.
So, the biggest con you can pull is against yourself. That's the idea of the story?
Guy Ritchie: Yes. A conman wishes to manipulate you for his own gain. He doesn't have any power initially. He only has the power f illusions. What he'll do is appeal to your sense of self. He will try to aggrandize you in some way. Right? So, he'll tell you that you are good looking or that you are smart, or whatever it is. The fact is, we all get trick. That is how a conman operates. And the Ego operates on the same premise. So, if you understand how a conman operates, then you understand how your Ego operates. But it's an unseen entity, so you don't know that its there. And it is sort of a spooky moment when you realize there is something going on in your head that you don't really identify with.
And that's this guy's journey.
Guy Ritchie: Yes, that is his journey. Ultimately he confronts his Ego in the elevator. The ultimate battle happens in the elevator. Which is a psychological battle. It's not a physical battle. That's the Ego. You can't physically fight the fucking thing.
Are some of the characters not real in the sense of the story? Are they just inside his head, or is that something the audience has to figure out for themselves?
Guy Ritchie: I think that depends on what level you want to understand this film. So, there is this conspicuous version of the film, where this guy is having this wrestling match with himself.
That's sort of what you get on the first watch through?
Guy Ritchie: That depends on what certain people derive from it. It's ultimately about this thing we just discussed. That's why I like talking about it, because it's interesting to me. I like talking about tricks, and the different ways the mind will trick you. The trick is manifold and infinite. So it is an inexhaustibly interesting subject. Because you can catch your mind playing tricks with you. It is trying to get its own way.
Watching the film a second time, do you feel you have to have an acute understanding of film and film theory to understand where you are coming from with the material as a director?
Guy Ritchie: I think the mind makes it more complicated than it really is. It is simply about the expression, "You are your own worst enemy." If you think that through a bit more, that's what this film is about. Its no more complicated than that. But it is trying to think it through, that the mind intentionally resists you being able to think it through. Why? Because it will lose its power.
So, if you go in and watch this film with no knowledge of what its about, and you simply watch it in a linear fashion, you are going to do better with it than if you know there is a puzzle to it. Or that there is a twist to it. Because your mind is going to be trying to figure it out the whole time.
Guy Ritchie: Yeah, I think if you over intellectualize it, it becomes tricky. And that is another trap of the mind. It's simply what it is. You've got to think. You have to know that you are walking into a thinking movie, because if you don't know that, and you think you are just simply sitting down in front of a gangster romp, it is going to get unstuck. We want to tell you what the movie is about before you get in there. And it's not for everyone. It's for those who wish to be challenged in that respect. If you are into those kinds of things, you could enjoy, I suspect. If you are not into those things, you might enjoy it, or you might fucking hate it. And it will be tiresome, and taxing, and not in your interest in the slightest.
How much of a game did it become when you sat down to write it? How did you let it all flow out, without tricking yourself? It seems that writing the script would be a con for you, personally.
Guy Ritchie: It is. It's ultimately quite simple. Whether I con myself or not is irrelevant. I'm simply following the uniform patterns of a confident trickster. If you follow that formula, you end up in your own head. The thing is, your mind doesn't want you to follow the formula all the way through. It wants you to keep it obvert. It wants you to keep it external.
I want to ask about one scene that sort of plays into that. You show Andre Benjamin and Vincent Pastore sitting in this hot tub. Was that something done stylistically, because it looked cool. Or is there a pattern there, that plays into the con going on inside Jason Statham's head? I don't even know if that is a hot tub.
Guy Ritchie: I don't know. The simple truth is, I can't even remember. They knew he was returning, right? So I wanted to put them in an environment that was more interesting than them simply waiting in the lobby. I don't think there was any more to it than that. Those guys were just waiting for Jason to return, so we just stuck them in a hot tub.
I've read on the internet that a lot of your fans are against this film, because they believe that it supports ideas and has a subtext that is based in Kabalism. What is your take on people who don't understand those ideas or take the time to understand what it is about before criticizing the movie for it? I don't know if that is a touchy subject?
Guy Ritchie: No, it's not at all. The subject matter of the film is not religious, though.
I understand that the plot structure is not based on a religious idiom. But people hear that you have taken certain ideas and thoughts associated with Kabala and put them in your film. I just want to know what your take on that is.
Guy Ritchie: I don't think there are any kabalistic influences on the film. If there are, I wish someone would inform me what they are. But the film is about the conceptualized self. And that's trick shit.
Well, I found it interesting. Because there is this thought that some of your fans wont go see the movie, because they feel that way about it. But they will go see other things that have religious themes to them.
Guy Ritchie: That is funny. Yeah. What is your take on that?
I don't have enough knowledge of Kabalism to identify those themes if they were being presented to me.
Guy Ritchie: I don't think the film or the religion have anything to do with one another. I can't help them there, then.
I just wanted to know your opinion about the whole thing, because it strikes me as a very interesting topic.
Guy Ritchie: The film isn't about that. No.
Well, is it true that all of the characters in the film represent a different part of Jake Green's Ego?
Guy Ritchie: It's just about Jake Green's escape from his Ego. That is what the movie is about. It's no more complex than that.
Okay. That's not what I'm saying, though. I'm saying that each character in the film represents a different part of his Ego.
Guy Ritchie: Oh, yes. To a degree I think that is true. But that's sort of ubiquitous, isn't it? We all have characteristics of certain people. The characters represent certain vices, or certain strengths and weaknesses. That is true.
I thought it was interesting, because I saw the film with my girlfriend. She didn't know anything about the film going into it. But she was trying to figure out the meaning behind the different characters names. Or how they played into Jason Statham's character. She came out trying to put this puzzle together.
Guy Ritchie: Okay. Well, the film is built so that you benefit from multiple viewings of it. We tend to find out that stuff the second or third time you view it. The pieces really start to talk. The puzzle starts forming. There is a difference between where you want to understand it and where you ultimately can understand it. You know what I mean. The formula is infinite. Same way the amount of moves you can make on a Chessboard are ultimately infinite. The formula is simply infinite, and it depends on which point your mind wants to recognize that. I hope I didn't make that too complicated for you.
Revolver opens December 7th, 2007.