In ‘El padre’ the Oscar-winning interpreter gets into the skin of a man with dementia
Anthony Hopkins He has reached a point in his career where his mere presence generates confidence in us. This theater veteran has turned movie theaters into his living room, a room where the public goes to enjoy each of his inventions. It doesn’t matter if it appears in a movie of demons, superheroes, science fiction or even action like ‘Transformers’; his sophistication is instantly associated with Shakespeare, for the diction and poise he injects into the characters. This week premieres
‘The father’, probably his best role in years, an acclaimed performance at the Sundance and Toronto Festivals, for which he can earn his sixth Oscar nomination. Directed by
Florián Zeller, ‘The Father’ is a suspense film that does something quite disturbing by showing the dementia, from the confusion, of a man who has begun to lose his mental faculties. About to turn 83, Hopkins confesses his desire to continue living and his new passion for making videos on Instagram.
-How did this script come to you?
-My agent sent it to me because he knew I would be interested. From the moment I read it, I knew I could do it. He is a character that does not require too much from me. I just reacted to the work of the rest of the actors. There are no tricks, no character study, no method, this is a brilliant script and that is always the most important thing.
-Thirty years ago he won his Oscar for ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, since then he has been nominated four times. Do you think this could be the role that gives you your second Oscar?
-Many actors find validation in the approval of the Academy, I do not judge them because they are within their rights, but I am not interested. I enjoy praise, because it is nice, however I find it unnecessary. I’m alive, I’m 82 years old and I’m still working, that’s what is really important to me. The last 6 years have been the most wonderful of my career. I have been able to act in the theater, in the cinema, on television; I’m in my prime The awards allow me to take advantage of other actors competing for the same roles, nothing more. I do not ask for anything, I do not expect anything, but I have open arms to receive what they give me.
-Why did you decide to play a man with dementia?
-I’m going to be 83 years old, I don’t have to act to play an old man, even if I don’t feel old because I’m fit and very, very strong. I understand the confusion of my character because I am living the aging process, I know what it is to gradually lose faculties, the fear of illness, of death. The man I play is not at peace. He lives moments of panic, he is losing his memories, his ability to recognize others.
-Is it true that you were inspired by your father to create this role?
-I recognize the fear and anger that accompany dementia because it is something that happened to my father, a baker who at the end of his life did not recognize anyone. My father experienced the process of falling into the void that happens to my character. He suffered from heart disease, smoked too much, and drank too much. He was a fighter, energetic, determined man, but his deterioration in the last year of his life was regrettable. As soon as he cried, as he yelled at you, he suffered depression and got angry because his confusion terrified him, that’s how you react when you face death. He would get defensive and attack you. But he was a good man. My father is in me, he is part of this character, I just hope I have modified him enough so that he is not him. I remember very clearly those days when he was dying: the apathy he tried to fight. What I don’t want is to lose the will to live.
-Are you afraid of death?
-No. At my age, you think about her a lot. I try to live my life taking care of myself; I meditate, get enough sleep, exercise, read for hours every day. I consider it very important to keep my brain agile, that’s why I read and meditate every day.
-Olivia Coleman plays her daughter. How was your relationship with her?
-All the emotional weight of the narrative falls on her. Olivia understands what the role of the caregiver of someone with dementia means. He who suffers from dementia has his own hell, but is protected against the pain of acknowledging the loss. Family members suffer it in another way, they have to cope with the loss and endure their fears, it is heartbreaking.
-Covid-19 has devastated homes with patients who need palliative care.
-We are in a society that needs to pay attention to the sick in the long term and I hope that this film is that call so necessary to seek a new model for aging populations. I think most of the damage is done by intellectual nonsense and people who just want to show how smart they are. Pride, ego and political marketing are doing us a lot of damage. It is difficult to make politicians understand that this invisible microbe has come not only to destroy the human ego, but to completely annihilate it. People will criticize me because I’m just a stupid actor, but they should think about what I say.
-Do you keep up to date, do you even have an Instagram account?
-Yes. I am taking advantage of the confinement by covid-19 to show my followers what I do. I enjoy making videos talking to my cat, or dancing, in these rare days that we have had to live, I enjoy my time painting and playing the piano. My ambition right now is to enjoy every minute of my life.
A Masterful Lesson from Hopkins
It will be difficult for Anthony Hopkins not to receive another Oscar for his dazzling and moving work in ‘The Father’, a resounding and exciting film that embraces theatrical forms to squeeze its full potential. Makes sense. Florian Zeller, who makes his debut behind the camera with this simple story about an eighty-year-old man whose memory is beginning to fail, is the author of the homonymous play, which premiered in Paris in 2012 and was awarded the Molière for the best play. For this he has made use of Christopher Hampton, playwright responsible for the play of ‘Dangerous friendships’ and its film script, who has already adapted the original work into English.
Sometimes stubborn and stubborn, sometimes fragile and mischievous, Hopkins masterfully performs the role of Anthony, a wealthy fellow, fond of classical music, who is determined to continue living alone and who does not hesitate to reject each and every one. one of the caregivers that her daughter Anne (Olivia Colman) hires to help her around the house. Desperation grows stronger in her and in those around her, as the signs that something is wrong in the octogenarian’s head are more and more palpable. In this sense, the great achievement of ‘The father’ is in making the viewer feel in their own flesh the impotence and anguish suffered by those who begin to lose their memory. With a fragmentary narrative, somewhat repetitive, and not always reliable, one comes to understand, almost as if it were a horror story, what happens when the handholds that the mind clings to begin to disappear.
Undoubtedly, the weight of the feature film, of contained duration – it is much appreciated in these times of films that easily go to two hours – falls on the shoulders of Hopkins who finds in the wonderful Colman a fantastic replica. The cast of the film, which won the Audience Award in the Pearls section of the San Sebastian Festival, is completed by Imogen Poots, Rufus Sewell and Olivia Williams.
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Anthony Hopkins: “I enjoy praise, but find it unnecessary”