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March 1969: Interview with Don Levy, in "Cinema."

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Jan. 1st, 1970 | 06:55 pm

Extracts from an interview by Bruce Beresford with Don Levy in “Cinema”, March 1969.

DL: Herostratus is a tragedy of egoism. Only by self-realisation is honesty achieved, and the characters in Herostratus do come to this self-realisation … Basic values are questioned. For example, Max thinks it’s important to be famous. Also he thinks he’s being honest, but he isn’t; he thinks that by being a rebel he’s facing up to things. He cracks completely when Farson abuses his motives.

BB: I found it hard to believe that the Ad Agency would agree to publicise the suicide.

DL: But the point is that the agency doesn’t take it on. It’s a personal thing between Farson (the Agency head), and Max, and Clio. Farson feels challenged by Max’s alleged freedom and he’s jealous because he knows Clio is impressed by him.1

BB: Herostratus has an interesting structure – long dialogue scenes interspersed with short staccato scenes. Why did you use this form?

DL: The scenes in long takes give the actor a lot of scope, and long scenes cause tension, sometimes the aim was to anger the audience.2

BB: Why did you choose to have the actors improvise the dialogue, instead of working to a written script?

DL: All of our theatre and cinema works inside a convention. Dialogue is a convention … compare any candid camera stuff with people talking with any dialogue in any film … What interests me is true motivation, true behaviour.

BB: But what’s true about actors improvising someone else’s life?

DL: The point is that the actors in Herostratus are quite close in real life to the people in the film. That’s why I chose them for the parts.3

BB: I thought there was some overacting, particularly by Mike Gothard as Max.

DL: I don’t agree. Often the character is overacting, but that’s different. I think the behaviour in the film is naturalistic.


1 This was not made clear in the film.
2 An example of Don Levy’s apparent contempt for his audience.
3 The arrogance Don Levy demonstrates here is breath-taking, firstly, in his assumption that he knows his principal actors inside and out, and secondly, in the obvious conclusion that he considers Michael Gothard a deluded egotist, Gabriella Licudi as someone who would prostitute herself to oblige her boss (and here, the line between reality and fiction really starts to blur, because it is Levy who is employing her) and Peter Stephens, (perhaps best considered as a stand-in for Levy himself) a manipulative pimp.

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