Interview: Hurt & Oldman On TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY

We also caught up with director Tomas Alfredson and co-writer Peter Straughan at this year's festival.

This week the Cambridge Film Festival opened with a series of interviews with guests from the newly released spy thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; stars Gary Oldman, John Hurt along with director Tomas Alfredson and co-writer Peter Straughan. I was invited to interview these four guests. €œMovies are too loud€ says Gary Oldman, his gentle, measured voice making one forget his catalogue of eardrum rumbling action movies. €œThe Bourne movies and Bond are like a spotlight shining on you, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is like watching a lava lamp... It€™s a quiet thriller. Tomas Alfredson€™s adaptation of John le Carre€™s Cold War spy novel is, like the spy game it depicts, very much about keeping quiet; only to better serve intense observation. Words are continually silenced in the dark world of the MI6 €œCircus€: loved ones are lied to for their own protection; communication is stifled beneath numbered code; truths are silenced by deception, dread, and death. All that is unspoken in this film is instead manifested in acutely observed signs; a bead of sweat, or an ambiguous emotion flickering through a straight gaze. This silent scrutiny laces the movie with a humanity that would be obscured by the gunshots and explosions of more conventional thrillers. Audiences find themselves acting like Smiley, Oldman€™s character charged with rooting out the Moscow mole at the top of the Circus. Like him they must search faces to figure out what€™s ticking behind them. John Hurt found the script sensational in its emotional possibilities. €œIt€™s a very emotional film€ he says. €œIt€™s to do with friendship. It€™s to do with betrayal. In a sense the Cold War is a kind of construct on which you can hang all these human frailties and strengths.€ This humanity is enhanced by the film€™s refusal to view the era with nostalgia. Anderson explains: €œWe now have an historic perspective on the Cold War which allows you to have a little more sober look at the subject, which wasn€™t the case when it was going on. Where I come from people got very emotional about East or West, red or blue...€ With the intensity of these conflicting ideologies faded, Anderson€™s film is free to explore the victims of these politics. 1970s Britain is observed as meticulously as the people within it. It appears clunky and dun €“ the Cold War Secret Service seems impossibly distant from the sleek weaponry and sophistication we have learned to associate with spies. This serves to further entangle us with the people behind the plot. In this pre-computer world files must be hidden by literally tearing pages from a book, and knowledge stolen by physically stealing through a packed filing cabinet. It shows the physical awkwardness of spying; right down to Smiley standing in his unprepossessing woolly socks so as not to make a sound as he listens through a floor. The plot does not fill you with suspense so much as an intoxicating interest in the people involved in it. Le Carre, a man who knows what it is to live as a spy, describes his character Smiley as €œrepresenting something like a decent man, trying to find the path of decency through the moral maze.€ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy may not be a thriller in the more conventional sense, but it is thrilling in its depiction of people and their real lives being caught up in all the terrifying possibilities that the spying game inflicts.
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