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'The Drowning' director talks dark, ambiguous psychological thriller

'The Drowning' director talks dark, ambiguous psychological thriller

After a private screening of The Drowning, Peter Travers, from Rolling Stone, gives a brief Q&A with director Bette Gordon.

***********Warning! Spoilers!***********

Bette Gordon, best known for her film Variety (1983), is a film director and professor at Columbia. In her new film, The Drowning, she goes deep into the psyche of a middle-aged psychiatrist as he battles with his haunting past. Her exploration of sexuality, violence, and power sets the tone in this disturbing thriller. After a private screening in midtown east, Bette Gordon and actor Josh Charles sat down with moderator Peter Travers (Rolling Stone, ABC-TV) for a brief Q&A.

Here are some of the questions directed toward Ms. Gordon.

Peter Travers (PT): How do you do it? You’re such a smart director and you always leave us with questions!

Bette Gordon (BG): You make a film in your head first and I made the film in my head with Josh. This guy is wrestling with his past.  We all have these things from our past that we keep reliving that we keep with us. How do you bury them, how are you haunted by them?... I’ve always been interested in a more active audience. The questions are more interesting than the answers. I like the ambiguity in that things aren’t always clear. Sometimes people are pushed too far, there’s an element of darkness in all of us. Pat Barker explores the psychological borders. At the end we see a Jekyll and Hyde and in order for Tom to keep Danny from coming back, he has to save himself.

 PT: Is the ending in the film different than the book?

BG: YES. I shot two endings. The ending in the book and the ending you saw today.

 PT: What happens after the film for Tom?

BG: Well... it doesn’t end for Tom. He has to live with this. He’s living with the death of a kid, like in his childhood there’s that almost death of a friend and now he has to live with this. The book has the same conversation at the end but Danny doesn’t get into the car. But it felt like a dot-dot-dot. I felt like people had gone through a journey with Tom. And he became a man of action and I felt we should end with a period.

PT: How do we know Danny didn’t survive and wont come back to make a sequel?

BG: Well... I hate sequels.

PT: What is the moment that resonates with you the most in the film?

BG: It’s hard. I think it’s usually the scene that’s the hardest to figure out. So I have a certain joy in watching those particularly difficult scenes. We tracked Tom’s truth and the point when he decides to help Danny. We would read the book to each other over lunch. Danny asks for his help and it’s hard for anyone, especially a psychiatrist, to say no. The scene with the chicken. I had such a hard time getting around that one, that moment when Tom really decides to help Danny against his father and Danny is setting him up, but Tom is playing it from the heart. It was hard to figure out. I also love the “crack the window” scene. It is so subtle you can even miss it. This idea of cracks, which are a theme throughout, this idea of pulling away and revealing layers there’s really something to that.

Intrigued? You can catch The Drowning at IFC! Check it out!