Willem Dafoe breaks out in art-heist survival thriller ‘Inside’3 min read
A 100-minute drama set entirely within the confines of a single apartment – and featuring only one solitary character for the camera – might not seem like the most obvious template for an edge-of-your-seat thriller.
But when that character is played by a versatile actor with the range of multi-Oscar-nominated Willem Dafoe, there’s no telling what will emerge. That’s the case with “Inside,” which premiered Feb. 20 in the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival. Focus Features is releasing the film in theaters in the US on March 17.
Dafoe plays an art thief who breaks into a collector’s high-tech penthouse in search of valuable works of art, only to be trapped inside when the security system locks the apartment. When help fails to arrive, the thief — surrounded by the many artifacts he covets and admires — must use all his cunning and ingenuity to survive, even as supplies dwindle and his body is pushed to even more demanding extremes. .
Dafoe, who described the month-long shoot as a “rigorous” effort, said he was given a script by director Vassilis Katsupis that essentially served as a “blueprint” for the character of Nemo.
“I went into this thing not really knowing who the character was, and not really interested in developing the backstory,” he said. “It’s so stripped down and so fundamental that it addresses something beyond a psychology. It’s really about: Lock yourself in a room. What do you need? What do you think? What do you reflect? What do you lack? What do you want? It’s that. All things were.”
Filming was done “inside” at MMC TV & Film Studios in Cologne, where production designer Thorsten Sabel built a set measuring 26-ft. Over 8,000 square feet of high and expansive exteriors of the New York City skyline were recreated using virtual production facilities at the German studio.
The film’s sequences were shot in chronological order, an unorthodox choice born out of necessity, as the set replicating the luxury Manhattan apartment gradually deteriorated as production began.
“When you’re shooting in chronological order, you’re not thinking about the past as much. You’re not thinking about the future,” Dafoe said. “It allows you to be present in a different way. We were really dealing with the reality of having this adventure, being locked in this place. And then taking on the challenges that this house started to present to us.”
Catsupis, who made his feature debut with “Inside,” said he wanted to “take the story of Robinson Crusoe and set it in a very dense and populous city” — a situation that only deepens the irony of Dafoe’s predicament: a Apartment block with hundreds of other tenants trapped inside the high-rise, hope of rescue is both so close and yet out of reach.
With little dialogue and no other actors to act as his foil, Dafoe had free reign to experiment. “There was so much improvisation. I gave him a lot of freedom to react and do new things and explore new ideas while we were shooting. It was an amazing process,” Katsupis said. “Willem is a genius. He was the perfect match for this picture. Her face and body are a work of art. You can put him in a museum.”
Written by Ben Hopkins, “Inside” is produced by Heretics Giorgos Carnavas, German-born producer Marcos Kantis and Dries Flypo, producer and managing director of A Private View, Lemming Film Belgium and Mockingbird Productions. Bankside is handling international sales and Square One Entertainment will distribute in German-speaking territories.
Kornavas, who co-founded the Athens-based production and sales outfit with Konstantinos Kontovrakis in 2013, sees the film as a game-changer for the Greek film industry, both as a local production on an international scale and as one of the biggest virtual ones. Productions to shoot in Europe in recent years.
“It required a huge leap of faith from Heretic, but also from all the financiers around the film to support it and make it happen,” said the producer. diversity He emphasized the importance of “inside” financing within the European co-production system. “We really hope this paves the way for similar projects that come out of ‘small’ audiovisual countries like Greece, but designed for the global stage.”