SIGNS & WONDERS

 USA 2000 - 105 minutes

director.gif (905 bytes)Jonathan Nossiter

CAST

Stellan Skarsgård - Alec Fenton
Marjorie Fenton - Charlotte Rampling
Deborah Kara Unger - Katherine
Dimitris Katalifos - Andreas
 

Premiered at the 2000 BIFF
France release: March 29, 2000
US release: February 9, 2001

DVD release: April 26, 2002

 



SYNOPSIS

Alec Fenton, an American by adoption and his wife, Marjorie, an American of Greek origin, live with their two children in Athens. Both Alec's business life and his tender relationship with his daughter are guided by a playful but deeply felt need to interpret the smallest details of the world as significant.

Under the influence of powerful signs and premonitions, Alec allows himself to veer in and out of a love affair with a colleague, Katherine, eventually leaving his family and returning to America with his lover. Once there, however, the same belief system urges him back home for one final attempt to win back his family.

But his new quest is endangered by the presence of a political activist, Andreas, in his family's life. Andreas becomes the victim of a series of incidents, each one more threatening than the last.

button_box.gif (205 bytes)PRODUCTION NOTES/IMAGES:

"Signs & Wonders" was inspired by the Polish surrealist novel, Kosmos of Witold Gombrowicz. French produced, it was shot entirely on location in 1999 in Athens and the northern region of Epirus in Greece as well as short sequences in Vermont and New York.

According to the director, shooting the film in video rather than conventional 35mm may have been a challenge to his actors. However, Nossiter points out, "they were amazingly adventurous, courageous really in trying this 'youth' technology. With actors as brilliantly inventive and passionate as Stellan and Charlotte, the moments when you can just let go and have an interrupted intimacy make digital seem as if it was invented for actors of their caliber."

From the director:
"Stellan made only one condition for accepting his part: that I bring sufficient cases of French, Italian and German wine to soften the shooting conditions in Athens, an unabashedly abrasive, brutal, noisy and polluted city. So each trip back to Paris would mean a visit to the Legrand wine shop, which, in turn, meant that the anxious atmosphere of our psychological thriller could be relieved nightly... I drank this refined nectar one night with Stellan, his wife, their six children, and his mother, after a fourteen-hour shoot in the labyrinthine and medieval meat market. Stellan compared drinking this wine to lapping up a few drops of civilization while the shells explode around you."

"Stellan and Charlotte are really amazing human beings. They threw themselves into the chaos of Athens, into the chaos of the streets. Often, it was me and them and the camera on my shoulder and the soundman, and the four of us would just go, and there'd be 40 people trying to trail behind us. There's almost a kind of carnal delight that they took [in it all], because they are fully alive human beings. These are not actors who believe that they are anointed by God to be pampered and act as marionettes, or worse, to act as belly-clearing artistes. These are fully alive human beings fully engaged in the world around them. Which to me is the greatest blessing of the film, the fact that Stellan and Charlotte were curious at every moment. It was a full exchange with them every day. It wasn't, 'Oh gee, okay, lets do the dialogue.' It was a complete and absolute collaboration. And they were as interested in their relationship to the city as characters as I was."

"Stellan is one of the few actors willing to embrace a peculiarly male monstrousness. I find him immensely sympathetic precisely because of the vulnerability and the nakedness with which he expresses a very male mania."

"Stellan is really one of the greatest actors of the world. He is the only one able to bring an absolutely undeniable force of vulnerability to the male species. It makes me think of William Holden."

From Deborah Kara Unger on Stellan:
"I personally find him sexy [laughs].  Honestly: the men, to whom I feel drawn, are never classically beautiful men. The mind is important to me."

button_box.gif (205 bytes)MOVIE STILLS:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)POSTERS:

button_box.gif (205 bytes)REVIEWS:

"Stellan is really one of the greatest actors in the world. He is one of only a few who can bring an absolutely undeniable force of vulnerability to the male species. It makes me much think of William Holden. "   ...L'Humanite

"Skarsgård's performance is bold and raw (and reminiscent of vintage Jack Lemmon in its earnestness), and Rampling, last seen in the crushingly good Under the Sand, projects an inner resolve and intelligence that, with only the minimum of dialogue, speak volumes." ...Philadelphia Inquirer

"Skarsgård's Alec, as open by nature as Rampling's elegant Marjorie is reticent, are surely among the most complete and wrenching performances we can expect to see this year, the work of gifted actors of stunning presence, intelligence and passion. They are faultlessly supported by Unger and Katalifos, and by the remarkable Ashley Remy as Alec and Marjorie's adolescent daughter. Signs & Wonders is that true rarity, a forceful film of a unique and original vision."     ...Kevin Thoms, LA Times

"Standout performances by Skarsgård and Rampling, who manage a number of onscreen moments that are so bitingly, uncomfortably real that one feels like they're watching an actual couple crumble."  ...Montreal Mirror

"Skarsgård is a good actor, and easily maneuvers between sadness and maniacal optimism as Alec. He seems to sometimes realize how hopeless his situation is, but then quickly brushes it aside and lapses back into his fantasy."   ...Haro Online

"The dependably intense Stellan Skarsgård plays Alec, an Americanized Swedish businessman in Athens whose attempts to read greater significance into the disorderly details of his life cause him to trample the emotions of those around him, including wife Marjorie (a mesmerizing Charlotte Rampling) and lover Katherine (Deborah Kara Unger). ...Eye Weekly

"If the movie has anything going for it, it's Mr. Skarsgård's plaintive performance. His elongated dumpling face and pleading slash of a mouth are wracked with guilt. 'I'm not a frivolous human being,' he blurts, and he wants it to mean something." ...Elvis Mitchell, NY Times

"Though at the mercy of camera angles, the characters are interesting to watch because the acting is remarkable. Skarsgård and Rampling play off each other well, both as stable marriage partners and as ex-lovers."   ...Rachel Gordon, Contact Music

"Beautifully acted film remains deeply intelligent and always fascinating."  ...LA Weekly

"Nossiter's strength is his handling of actors, and he is admirable as being one of the few directors to consistently write for older actors. Rampling, at age 55, is ravishing and wholly convincing, and Skarsgård, 48, is always solid."  ...Indiewire

"The caliber of performances in Signs and Wonders is remarkable, but then Nossiter is working with such talented people. After her equally fine acting in Under the Sand, any casting director should realize that Rampling is a global treasure, and offer her any female part available. Skarsgård is given his best role to date, and makes Alec's wavering behavior compelling rather than irritating."  ...Reel.com

"There is great emotion generated on the screen by this fine cast."  ...Toronto Star

"The actors work hard to breathe life into their roles, but only Skarsgård succeeds at rendering a three-dimensional character. Despite considerable obstacles, the Swedish-born thesp generates a surprising amount of sympathy for a willfully blind character who insists on seeing hope where none exists."   ...Variety

"Skarsgård and Rampling are both compelling, but director-cowriter Jonathan Nossiter allows his story to wander hither and yon until it literally falls off a cliff."  ...People Weekly

"Without the weight of Skarsgård's believable performance, Signs & Wonders would be more of a mathematical puzzle than a human drama."  ...Flipside Movie Emporium

"No one is making movies like Nossiter. He gets first-rate performances from his actors, particularly Skarsgård, who is possibly the best English-speaking actor today and certainly the most courageous."   ...Newsday

"Boasts some startlingly effective moments and fine performances....Rampling has never before conveyed the fierceness and raw emotional power she exhibits here." ...Movieline

"Co-writer and director Jonathan Nossiter (an American expatriate himself) does a fine job of bottling the jumbled emotions Skarsgård skillfully infuses into Alec."  ...Splicedwire

"Excellent performances from the entire cast. Marcus. Smart, sophisticated and totally aware of the world cultural and political stage. This movie brings together social and personal crisis and resolves them the way these things are always resolved, with tragedy." ...Hollywood Bitchslap

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