Willem Dafoe challenges isolation in “Inside”

Willem Dafoe has said that, for him, the process of making a film always overshadows the finished product. But after more than 130 film credits, the 67-year-old actor has finally found a project whose final form is up to the experience of creating it.

“When I see this movie, I’m like, ‘Okay, I feel like I’m there again,'” Dafoe said of “Inside,” his latest film, which opened Thursday at Fine Arts. “Even though there are a lot of things that we made up that got cut, it feels like that.”

That claim is impressive, given how much Vasilis Katsoupis’s fictional debut “Inside” asked of its main and virtually only actor.

“It really required a lot of different states and different approaches, I would say. But it was a lot of fun,” Dafoe recalled.

Set entirely inside an apartment and with no other people for Dafoe’s character to lean on, “Inside” hinges on his performance, which is so convincing that you forget he’s the only person on screen for the better part of its 100 minutes. of duration.

It follows an art thief named Nemo (Dafoe) who becomes trapped inside a collector’s apartment during a botched heist. Nemo is pushed to his limits, braving extreme temperatures, flooding, and limited access to food and water, all within the confines of a luxury Manhattan apartment.

Despite the physical and psychological toll Nemo takes throughout the film, Dafoe said he was able to distance himself from his character’s travails through his work with the production team.

“You go to some perhaps dramatic places or some difficult places, but you also enjoy interacting with other people,” he said. “You’ve got the camera, you’ve got the language of cinema behind you, so you’re playing with these things.”

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more than just thriller psychological, “Inside” reflects on the way in which art rescues humans from an isolated existence in modern society, a way to stop being trapped inside ourselves. Through his meditations on William Blake’s “Marriage, Heaven and Hell,” Nemo discerns that liberation can only be achieved through creation.

For Dafoe, the philosophical exploration of the human relationship with art was not as evident in the script, but “it really came out doing it,” the actor recalled, reflecting on the ways in which he found beauty in making pieces of art for the movie.

“That was very nice. You lose yourself in those things. You don’t necessarily know what they’re for, but they feel so useful, so healthy, and so necessary,” she said.

Despite his prolific career, Dafoe said “Inside” allowed the Oscar-nominated actor to flaunt skills he rarely displays.

“There are certain things that are purely physical, and you can’t always do these scenes without dialogue,” he said. “Meditative sections where you really are alone.”

And while the plot details of “Inside,” which finished filming in June 2021, may not seem universal, nearly everyone will identify with the film’s sparse human interactions in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, vague conception of time, and claustrophobic cinematography.

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