Timing is everything

Charlotte Rampling on the vertiginous experience of 45 Years.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

45 Years star Charlotte Rampling with Diane von Furstenberg
45 Years star Charlotte Rampling with Diane von Furstenberg Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Yesterday, Diane von Furstenberg hosted an intimate afternoon tea in honor of Andrew Haigh's exquisitely subtle film, 45 Years, starring Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. The celebration was organized by Peggy Siegal at the Plaza Athénée and included guests Robert Redford, Ann Dexter-Jones, Celia Weston, Magee Hickey and Jonathan Sehring, President of IFC Films and Sundance Selects.

Geoff (Tom Courtenay) Kate (Charlotte Rampling)
Geoff (Tom Courtenay) Kate (Charlotte Rampling)

Charlotte Rampling shared Best Performance in a British Feature Film with The Pyramid Texts star James Cosmo. Jane Seymour presented the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature Film to 45 Years director Andrew Haigh at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival where it had its UK premiere.

Right before heading downtown for a conversation with New York Film Festival director Kent Jones on his film Hitchcock/Truffaut, I had a Vertigo moment with Charlotte Rampling as we discussed what triggered her to join the project.

Rampling gives a breathtaking performance showing a woman suddenly confronted with the intricate details of an episode in her husband's life that marked her own existence more than she ever could have guessed. She is like the heroine in a Bluebeard tale who never opened the forbidden door because she didn't even know it existed. As she's tempted by the secrets of the attic, simple, quotidian decisions become suddenly and irrevocably haunted by spectres from a past that was never her own.

Andrew Haigh greets Charlotte Rampling at the afternoon tea
Andrew Haigh greets Charlotte Rampling at the afternoon tea Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

45 Years, based on David Constantine's short story In Another Country, examines the marriage of Kate (Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Courtenay) in the week leading up to their 45th anniversary celebration. Geoff had to have surgery five years earlier, so they are making up for the expected party now. How much things in their lives are made-up, expected and unexpected, will become painfully clear when a letter arrives announcing that the body of Geoff's ex-girlfriend Katya has been found, frozen in a Swiss glacier, unchanged in appearance since the day of the accident in 1962.

Time in relationships is relative - sometimes it takes a mere week to unravel an emotional construction that was built on for almost half a century.

Anne-Katrin Titze: The ending of 45 Years is fantastic. Your face reveals in one moment what the whole movie was about. Was this always the last scene?

Charlotte Rampling: Yes, in the script it was always the last scene. And Andrew always said it would be the last scene of the film to be shot. It was the last scene in the film, but as you know, sometimes you film all over the place. You don't always film in chronology and this was the last scene that we shot. Because he said that we were not going to know what we'll need at the end until we finish the film.

The landscape of 45 Years for Kate and Geoff Mercer
The landscape of 45 Years for Kate and Geoff Mercer

AKT: Was it the alternative life? Was it the woman in the ice? What was the trigger for you to say yes to this film when you read the script?

CR: The trigger was that it was so complex. And it was so moving. It was such an extraordinary film also about change. About the possibility of change. About the terror of change. About why we have to suddenly discover things, you know?

AKT: Suddenly she [Kate, Charlotte's character] discovers she is in Vertigo!

CR: She is. Exactly. That's good.

AKT: Isn't that it? Even Max, the dog! Just imagine, discovering that your own dog isn't what you thought he was.

CR: Yes - and then suddenly - do I think that everything was what I thought it was, was not? Is that it now? It's quite a difficult concept.

AKT: I loved your reaction when he starts smoking again. It could mean many things. What was in that reaction?

The Plaza Athénée in New York
The Plaza Athénée in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

CR: When he starts smoking again?

AKT: Yes, your reaction when he starts smoking.

CR: Oh yes, because that's what he did before, wasn't it? That's what he was doing when he was still a younger man.

AKT: So there is an attraction in this?

CR: Yes, you are going back into roles that you lived in before.

AKT: How much does the landscape, you think, affect the life of this woman?

CR: Which landscape? Her landscape?

AKT: The landscape there [in Norfolk, England] affecting her inner landscape.

CR: Very much, I think. It's all tied into the same language.

Coming up, a conversation with 45 Years director/screenwriter Andrew Haigh.

45 Years opens in the US on December 23.

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