VENICE (Reuters) - Even the cast has admitted to not fully understanding cult director Monte Hellman's latest movie, so audiences may be forgiven for being perplexed on their journey along a "Road to Nowhere."
The veteran U.S. filmmaker's first feature for more than 20 years centers around a film-within-a-film, and constantly unsettles the audience by blurring the "real" plot and the plot of the movie being made by the cast.
One of the main mysteries is the identity of the leading actress, played by Shannyn Sossamon, who is believed to be a new discovery but turns out to be a femme fatale with dark secrets that threaten to derail the production.
"The audience completes the movie, because we leave the question unanswered," Hellman told reporters at the Venice film festival where Road to Nowhere is in the main competition.
"I love riddle stories ... This movie is an impossible riddle and the only possibility is for the audience to solve it for themselves."
The 78-year-old, best known for his 1971 picture "Two-Lane Blacktop," said that Sossamon's character had clear parallels with Laurie Bird, who starred in two of Hellman's movies during her brief career.
Once romantically linked to Hellman, according to online biographies, she committed suicide in 1979 in her mid-20s.
"We didn't think about that when we were making the movie, but as an afterthought we realized how close this character was to her character," Hellman told Reuters in an interview.
"After the fact we realized that this really is a kind of tragic story that is very similar to the tragic story of Laurie, and so that's why we dedicated it (to her)," he added.
Hellman said he believed film festivals, where a jury chooses a winner from among the movies in competition, were not completely fair. "I think that it's impossible to compare one film to the other," he told the press briefing.
"Everyone is an individual. But given that, being here and being in competition for the first time, I must say I'm starting to get a feeling of competitiveness which I've never felt in my life before."
Asked whether jury president Quentin Tarantino might face a conflict of interest when he decides on the Golden Lion award at Saturday's closing ceremony in Venice, Hellman added:
"I feel that it must be very difficult for Quentin to have to judge so many of his friends.
"I know that Sofia Coppola (in competition with 'Somewhere') is a very dear friend of his and of course we're good friends, and I think that I believe that Quentin, being a serious person, will try to influence the jury to give the prize to what he thinks is the best film."
Additional reporting by Hanna Rantala, editing by Paul Casciato