VENICE (Reuters) - German director Werner Herzog is competing against himself at the Venice film festival this year with two pictures in the main lineup.
After presenting Nicolas Cage in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” earlier in the week, Herzog’s second movie “My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done” has been named as the surprise film this year.
They are among 24 movies in the main competition lineup in Venice, which runs from September 2-12 and ends with the Golden Lion award for best picture.
“Venice never accepted any of my films into competition for four decades,” Herzog told reporters.
“(Festival director) Marco Mueller saw ‘Bad Lieutenant’ and somehow as a side remark I said to him, ‘Well I have yet another film’, and he was completely enthusiastic about it and said, ‘I need this film as well’.”
“My Son” is based on a true story of a mentally disturbed man who murdered his mother and also happened to be an actor in a staging of Greek myth of Orestes, who also killed his mother.
Herzog said he met the man in California after he was released from a high-security mental institution, and decided to turn the story into a movie.
Michael Shannon plays Brad, Chloe Sevigny appears as his girlfriend and Willem Dafoe is a police officer trying to arrest Brad, who is armed and presumed dangerous. All three actors have Academy Award nominations, as does Herzog.
The executive producer is David Lynch, and, while Herzog said he and Lynch were very different film makers, viewers may recognize elements of Lynch’s film making in the dark and disjointed portrayal of mental illness.
“David Lynch and I like each other very much,” Herzog said.
“But I was sitting with David and we talked about production costs exploding, $100 million (to make a movie), $180 million and releasing costs another $25 million.
“I said, like a manifesto, we should make films that cost maybe only $2 million, but we will work with the best of the best of the actors. He said, ‘Why don’t we do it?’”
For Shannon, the issue of mental illness was not as clearly defined as many assumed.
“The whole notion of sanity is a construct that is necessary for us all to share the world together, but it’s not necessarily something that you can prove, whether somebody is sane or insane or what’s the correct way to behave as a person.
“I’m interested in exploring characters that exist outside of normalcy because I feel that normalcy is like a prison.”
The film takes Herzog back to Peru, backdrop to his 1982 movie “Fitzcarraldo” starring Klaus Kinski as a music lover who wants to build an opera in the jungle.
Also premiering in Venice on Saturday is French competition entry “Persecution,” starring Romain Duris as a troubled builder who finds it hard to trust others, including the woman he loves played by Charlotte Gainsbourg.
“Accident,” directed by Hong Kong’s Soi Cheang, is a slick psychological thriller about a hit man who grows increasingly paranoid when he thinks somebody is out to get him back.
Editing by Michael Roddy