‘The Forgiven’ explores the haves and have nots

The Forgiven
Jessica Chastain in ‘The Forgiven.’
Sife Elamine / Vertical Entertainment

By María Estévez, MWN 

Based on Lawrence Osborne’s 2012 novel of the same name, ‘The Forgiven’ stars Jessica Chastain, Ralph Fiennes, Matt Smith and Said Taghmaoui. Chastain and Fiennes play a wealthy couple who make their way to Morocco for a weekend of debauchery at a friend’s (Smith) sprawling desert estate. They accidentally hit and kill a young boy with the car, however only view it as a minor inconvenience. The boy’s father, a Berber tribal leader, quickly discovers what happened and requests that Fiennes’ David, who was driving, accompany him to his camp in the desert to bury the boy. David reluctantly goes along, knowing well that his life is in danger.

Metro chatted with Chastain to learn more.

Much of your success as an actress lies in the characters you play. They are very different from each other.

I want to believe that feelings are contagious. I like the challenge, to the point of considering myself a masochist. I don’t know what it is that attracts me to a character, but I feel the need to take a full risk when I play. When I’m acting, I’m so reckless that I think I can do anything. I understand that there are many actors out of work and I, who am privileged, have to give my best.

It seems that you like to completely change your physical appearance or travel to faraway places.

In our industry, we celebrate men who take risks while women are valued for their looks. I’ve built a career on playing unlikeable characters. I’m all for it. And, also, I find that to pretend we don’t all have flaws and make mistakes and are selfish and ambitious, that’s what being human is. We’re not always selfless and filled with integrity and honor.

Is it difficult for you to shoot in remote places?

I like shooting in remote places, it is part of my job. We actually shot ‘The Forgiven’ where the novel and the screenplay take place. It just felt so authentic and I don’t know how you can recreate that somewhere else. We’d be driving home every night and there’d be people selling fossils on the road. We were really part of that environment, and, to me, it just helped tell the story. 

Your character Jo is not very sympathetic. Tell us more about her. 

We are telling a story of privilege. I don’t think all the characters have to be the same. I like the challenge of playing someone that is not to be liked. I find it’s sad storytelling when nothing is happening, when there is no drama or challenge. When you’re only being told the stories of people who are so far removed from being human beings, especially women. I find female characters that may do things that go against what society expects a woman to do, that, to me, is a very exciting thing to play. So, yeah, I was very happy to play Jo.

Were you eager to work with Ralph Fiennes again? 

Yes. He is one of my favorite actors and this time our characters at least like each other a little. In the Shakespearean drama ‘Coriolanus’, we played a married couple who don’t really connect. This time around, they’re a couple on the brink of a divorce, but at least they have a politer backstory. I was joking with him and said, the next time we work together, please let’s be friends, or at least let’s be married people who actually like each other.

Why do you like to work with Ralph?

It feels effortless to be in the scenes because he’s so open. His inspiring presence makes everything so easy, and then there’s a flow to it. Yes, I love working with Ralph. I hope, in the future, we end up playing characters who really like each other because we’ve had two very difficult marriages on our hands.

How is this movie about class?

The book and the film really explore a class system, gender roles, and racism. It also shows the idea that if people have money, they think they can just go anywhere and do anything without the ramifications. They are very sadly mistaken.

Do you feel in a power position now?

People definitely treat me differently now because I’ve made and produced a lot of movies. But I would not be where I am without my team. They help me to focus on the things that matter to me.

The Forgiven‘ is now showing in theaters. 

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