Liliana Cavani and John Malkovich • Director and actor
Interview with the director Liliana Cavani, during the 59th Venice Film Festival, where her film Ripley's Game starring John Malkovich
by Federico Greco
Tom Ripley is all grown up. He has all the money, power and status he so desired when younger and can satisfy every whim. He delights in surrounding himself with beauty and appreciates the finest art, music, architecture, food and wine in the world. But you must never forget for a minute that he is ready to defend all this hard-won privilege. To the death. Tom Ripley amuses himself by playing ruinous mind games with those rash individuals who dare to cross him.
Liliana Cavani is in Venice to present Ripley’s Game, out of competition. The film is based on the third of Patricia Highsmith’s five novel series featuring this enigmatic character. In Ripley’s Game, our “hero” turns an innocent man into a killer. Tom Ripley’s intuitive intelligence have found a worthy interpreter in John Malkovich, whose charisma and talent blend in perfectly with some of 20th century literature’s most well-drawn characters.
Why does the character of Tom Ripley exert such an attraction for filmmakers and audiences alike?
Liliana Cavani: "Everyone who is free, by that I mean people who are free to do what they want, are fascinated by Ripley. He too is a free man whose paramount aim in life is to satisfy his own well being". John Malkovich: "People like him because he does things many of them would love to do. He thinks and acts in a conscious way and always self-servingly. And most people would like to silence their conscience and do the same".
Ripley makes one think of a character by Dostoievsky, in spite of "Crime and Punishment"...
L.C.: "That’s probably true. Patricia Highsmith was a passionate reader of Dostoievsky’s books. She used to say that had he only been born later, he would have made a great thriller writer, though much more concise".
J.M.: "I’m not an expert on Dostoeivsky. I read "Crime and Punishment" twenty years ago but don’t remember a thing. I can’t answer the question".
Why did you choose to set the film in the Veneto region and mix Palatine art with the evil deeds of Tom Ripley?
L.C.: "In the third book of the series, Ripley is a well-established man. Sure of himself. He has built up his lifestyle of choice and found a world of his own. I thought that the ideal home for an art lover and connoisseur of beauty is a Palatine villa. That’s the sort of home he would have desired".
Do you think you have anything in common with Tom Ripley?
J.M.: "He is a character I can understand, on a deep level. We’re on the same wavelength but that does not make me his equal. Ripley does not represent me".