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Co-writer and helmer Florian Zeller also reveals that he named the main character Anthony because his dream was to have the veteran actor in the title role.

By Lauren Huff
March 26, 2021 at 08:00 AM EDT
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The Father

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For his directorial debut The Father, co-writer and director Florian Zeller adapted his own play, Le Père. Like the play, the film is a heartbreaking look at an aging man (Anthony Hopkins) coming to terms with his dementia. Here, the French playwright breaks down the film's emotional final scene, which ironically he says is the first thing he envisioned for the adaptation. "This is how I started to dream about that film," he says. "I knew it was the destination of the film itself."

The Father
Credit: Florian Zeller
  1. The Namesake: Zeller saw Hopkins in the role before casting him, and named the character accordingly. “To me, it was very important not only to play with what is real and what is not real with the audience, but I wanted Anthony Hopkins to be connected with his own emotions. I wanted him to use his fears, his emotion, and also his own feeling of mortality to go to that place,” Zeller explains. “The challenge for him and for us, was to accept and to explore this new emotional territory and this place of fragility and vulnerability. And to keep that name, I think it helps us to be truthful, and intense, and I hope powerful in this last scene.”
  2. Trust Exercise: Zeller wanted to capture the experience of dementia intimately, which meant allowing the audience to go along on the journey. "What I personally believe is that the audience is intelligent, which is really something I know from my experience through the theater. And believing that the audience is intelligent, I didn't want to make it too easy for them," he explains. "I wanted them to be in the labyrinth and to try to use their brain to make it work, to try to understand what is going on and to experience the frustration, the anger of not being able to understand everything because it was exactly the point of that scene. It was about experiencing what it could mean to have to go into this place where reality is very uncertain." Zeller says there are so many other films about dementia, and because of that, he didn't want the audience to feel like they were on familiar ground. "There are so many films about dementia, and…it's always told from the same perspective — from the outside. I wanted the audience to use their brain…to understand for themselves."
  3. Final Destination: "The moment comes when, in order to accept your brain is not capable of understanding everything, you have to let it go," Zeller says of this last line. "And when you do so, when you let it go, you can understand the whole story on another level, which is a more emotional level. So, even though the narrative is sometimes complex, or chaotic, where I wanted to lead to was a very simple place, and a very emotional territory. It was that last scene. It was really where I wanted to go."

The Father is out in theaters and on VOD now.

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The Father

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