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banner Monday, 19 November, 2001, 15:51 GMT
Todd Field makes good of grief
Wilkinson and Spacek
Wilkinson and Spacek battle to keep their marriage together
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

Compelling and convincing screen portrayals of grief are hard to achieve, even for the most accomplished film-maker.

But actor-turned-director Todd Field says he felt driven to give it a shot for his first feature In The Bedroom - even if it meant confronting his own personal pain.

In The Bedroom is the intensely emotional depiction of the repercussions on a New England couple of the murder of their son.

"This was not just a job for me or so that I could put the word director by my name - I really wanted to tell this story," says Field, who is better known as Nick Nightingale in Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.

"I had gone through very deep grief after losing someone and it had taken me some good many years to sort myself out."

Todd Field in Eyes Wide Shut
Field: Known for Nick Nightingale in Eyes Wide Shut

Critics acknowledge that Field's experience has informed his work.

They consider In The Bedroom a particularly sensitive and realistic depiction of the attempt to come to terms with loss.


The film sees husband and wife Ruth and Matt Fowler, played by Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson, trying to cope in their individual ways.

Ruth becomes bitter, angry and vengeful. Matt, on the other hand, puts on a brave face while inside he is falling apart.

Field's treatment of his subject matter avoids melodrama, sentimentality or trite optimism.

After one screening last autumn, a man came up me and said that it was the first time he had seen a film in which men's feelings were explored and spotlighted

Todd Field

But his approach is also untypical because he focuses on the emotional response of the central male character, Matt.

Field acknowledges that his own self-knowledge guided his male-centric approach.

But he was also inspired by writer Andre Dubus, who wrote the short story on which In the Bedroom was based.

And, in turn, Field says he has had some evidence that his film can inspire male audiences.

"After one screening last autumn, a man came up me and said that it was the first time he had seen a film in which men's feelings were explored and spotlighted," Field explains.

"I asked if he felt that was real for him personally and he said he didn't know but that he wished it was."


At times, Field admits, making In the Bedroom was hard, with emotional scenes affecting everyone in the room.

And while he knew he wanted Spacek - "a true character actress" - to play Ruth, finding Wilkinson, an actor over-50 who wasn't a household name, was tough.

Todd Field
Todd Field felt compelled to make his film

But Field says his experiences working with the late director Kubrick helped him to keep up his stamina.

"From Stanley I learnt that you should be really excited about a film and let it possess you because it is going to be with you for a very long time," Field says.

"He also taught me to respect my actors and that films are ultimately about human beings.

"That, he believed, was where a director's attention should be and not on doing goofy things with the camera."

Field says he has not given up acting and regrets having to turn down a part in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down to work on In The Bedroom.

But now that In the Bedroom is done and dusted he hopes the public find it as worthwhile as he did.

"After every screening I go to, someone tracks me down and tells me their own intensely personal stories of grief," he said.

"Initially I was shocked. Now I hope everyone is engaged and moved by the film."

See also:

24 Jan 02 | Oscars 2002
Bedroom brings emotional wake-up
17 Dec 01 | Film
Bedroom drama tipped for Oscar
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