The Captive Movie

5 questions for Atom Egoyan about The Captive

The September 5th weekend was a good one for Atom Egoyan. Not only was a new digital restoration of his 1989 film, Speaking Parts, playing during the Toronto International Film Festival, but his latest film, The Captive, premiered across Canada to very healthy box-office figures. It was a happy turn of events for the director no doubt, considering that leading up to The Captive release much was made of the movie's mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, and many were openly curious about the movie's exclusion from the usually Egoyan-friendly TIFF.

I had the chance to catch-up with Atom Egoyan recently and ask him about The Captive's Cannes reviews, why the film didn't screen at TIFF, what it feels like to have two films playing in Toronto at the same time, and more.

Why did you choose not to screen The Captive at TIFF?

I decided not to screen The Captive at TIFF at the urging of my wonderful distributor, eOne. They felt that that particular weekend (September 5) would be a great time to open the film nationally, since there didn't seem to be much competition. They were right. The Captive is far and away my strongest opening ever, and has outperformed all expectations. The team at TIFF had seen the film and it was actually invited into the Festival, but we all made this choice together. Everyone wanted to do what was best for the film.

How do you think audiences will receive this film compared to your most recent features Chloe and The Devil's Knot?

I think audiences will have a very different response to The Captive than they had with Chloe. The Captive is a much more radical film in terms of the storytelling, moving back and forth over eight years. Chloe is a character study between two complex women, and I really focused on their relationship in a different way than I have in The Captive.

There's no doubt that Chloe is a sexier movie, and that the erotic energy in The Captive - by necessity - is completely withheld. This being said, I think there's a lot more tension in The Captive, though it comes from a much more unexpected place. Chloe is centered on a certain realism, and The Captive functions more like a dark fairy tale.

The film got mixed reviews at Cannes. Were you surprised by the reaction? What do you take away from that kind of feedback?

I was surprised by the critical response at Cannes, but I really felt that the public response - where we received a ten minute standing ovation at the premiere - was a better indication of how the film would play. It's hard to say what I've taken away from the critical feedback, since it was generally so extreme and not particularly constructive.

I feel that The Captive takes huge risks, and I'm extremely proud of what the film manages to accomplish. It's using many different tones and genres and mixing then together, sometimes in a violent and unexpected way. It's unlike anything I've ever made.

For Atom Egoyan fans what film in your catalogue would this be most similar to and why?

For my fans, I think this film is sort of a cross between The Sweet Hereafter, Family Viewing, Exotica and Where the Truth Lies, with about 5 per cent of Calendar and an unhealthy dose of the pilot I did for Friday the 13th. Or maybe it's what you get when you mix those films together and make a film that takes place at Niagara Falls.

Your films often touch on the subject of children being killed or harmed. Why is this a theme you keep coming back to?

I promise that this will be the last film I make about kids being harmed or killed. Certain things that happened to me in my own life have made this an obsessive topic, but I feel I'm ready to move on.

Lead image from The Captive

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