Thomas M. Wright in his book The Stranger: “My partner said, ‘I don’t want you to do this’ | Movies

Like the movie itself, the promotional image for Thomas M Wright’s The Stranger is charming and contradictory.

Is it the face of Joel Edgerton, who portrays the film’s hero, or Sean Harris, who plays the antagonist? Moreover, who exactly is the hero and who is the antagonist in this story?

Poster for the new Thomas M. Wright movie The Stranger.
“One is in a dream and the other is in a nightmare.” Photo: Netflix

Upon closer examination, the face is revealed to be a composite of both characters: Mark Edgerton, the stalker, and Harris Henry, the stalker.

“One is in a dream and the other is in a nightmare,” Wright told The Guardian Australia.

The film – which opened in Australian cinemas today – received a standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It debuted in Australia at the Melbourne Film Festival a few months later, and received a five-star review Guardian critic Luke Buckmasterwho described The Stranger as an unconventionally impressive crime drama that diligently creeps into brilliance.

But even before those early performances, it sparked controversy.

Although all the characters in The Stranger have fictional names – including the victim, who is only referenced and not filmed – the film is based on the nearly decade-long police investigation into one of Australia’s most brutal crimes. : 2003 kidnapping and murder. Daniel Morecomb, 13-year-old Queensland schoolboy. The crime itself was not re-enacted.

In July of this year, the victim’s parents, Bruce and Dennis Morecomb, He called on audiences to boycott the filmdescribing the project—which did not have their consent or input, and which they did not see—as “selfish critical snatching” that sought to “glorify a horrific incident.”

Comparisons have been made between The Stranger and Justin Kurzel Netramwhich has won critical acclaim, a host of awards and barrage of criticism One of those close to the 1996 Port Arthur massacre on which the film is based.

Speaking to the Guardian, Wright admits that he was initially too afraid of the subject he hadn’t touched.

Joel Edgerton was the first to suggest addressing Morcombe’s story after watching Wright’s first film of 2018, acute misfortune, based on Eric Jensen’s biography by Adam Cullen. Edgerton Wright gave a copy of journalist Kate Kiriakou’s book The Sting, a detailed description of the so-called Mr. Page’s elaborate investigation technique She was a pioneer in Canada to extract confessions to cold case crimes, which were used to solve the Morecombe case.

Thomas M. Wright at The Stranger.
I was too afraid to take it. I thought this was too difficult’: Thomas M. Wright at The Stranger. Photography: Charles Schaech

“It’s not something I had much interest in, and when I first read Kate’s book…I thought it was impossible to do,” Wright says. “I was very afraid of it. I thought this was very difficult. I knew what it would take, in terms of the depth of research that would be required and the commitment it would require of me. My partner actually told me, ‘I don’t want you to do this. I know where you’re going.'”

“But the more I sit with him, and the more I read it, the more he begins to reveal himself as a movie that is not about violence at all. It is clear that the cause of the film is an act of unknown violence… it captures the worst that human animals can do. But that is not the subject of the film.”

Wright says the stranger is a rumination of connections between people, and how the basic capacity for empathy—or lack thereof—determines our humanity.

“This is the connective tissue of the film,” he says, “and it’s what connects our community in many ways: our primary empathy for one another.”

Henry – the character played by English actor Harris (24 Hour Party People) – is a chilling study in the absence of empathy.

“The film never tries to franchise or indulge him, or try to psychoanalyze his character, because the film doesn’t care more about why or what he did, than those [real life] Investigators and covert agents did.”

Joel Edgerton stands on a dirt path through a forest
Edgerton as Mark, a detective who collapses under the emotional burden of years of covert work. Photo: Netflix

Mark Edgerton, a detective who pretends to be a follower in a fake organized crime outfit to win Henry’s trust, quietly collapses under the weight of sympathy. His years spent in the underground — trauma and paranoia — left him emotionally paralyzed, a personal study that Wright says praises police on the fringes of law enforcement, who see the worst in people in their daily lives.

“The social contract between Mark and society has already eroded; he sees society held together by thin, thin fibres, separating us from the violence that is everywhere,” says Wright.

“I hope the cops can see this movie and feel that their work has been honored.”

Glimpses of Mark’s ever-diminishing capacity for tenderness are embodied in his relationship with his young child, the product of a broken marriage – and when the boy disappears briefly during a nighttime game of hiding, it’s perhaps the father’s horror and consternation. One of the most violent scenes in the movie.

The director chose his eight-year-old son Cormac Wright for the role.

“I decided from the start that I would not portray any representation of the victim, and that I would not represent any of the family members, because I felt I had no right to do so… So by making this absence the focus of the film, I ask all of my collaborators as well as the audience, what is it that you care about In him more? What do you love most? And I exemplified that through my son’s choice, making him and the relationship with his father the emotional center of the film.”

Wright said using his son as the emotional film for the film was not a difficult decision.

“It wasn’t made sarcastic, it just felt necessary,” he says. “It is a huge part of my life and I wanted it to be a part of this business. This is my investment, and it is part of my own understanding of how to value materials.”

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