Satyajit Ray was a genius: Ralph Fiennes
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Iam instinctively drawn to our everyday human stories,” says English actor and director Ralph Fiennes. A veteran of the stage and screen, he is famous for his Oscar-nominated roles in Schindler’s List (1993) and The English Patient (1996), as well as his work as Lord Voldemort in The Harry Potter films, but the 55-yearold feels that acting never gets easy. In an interview, he speaks to us from Italy about Satyajit Ray’s genius, dark roles, and digital content.
Your role as a Nazi officer in Schindler’s List had a huge impact on your career. How did it affect you? I was at the receiving end of attention and curiosity that I hadn’t experienced before. The film was nominated for a number of Oscars, which isn’t on your mind when you sign up. It was a successful film, critically and commercially, I believe. The media focus was a big change in my life. Such attention can be difficult. There is a curiosity about you that you often don’t want.
Today, streaming media and TV series have better content than mainstream cinema. What do you think about the shift? It’s a sad thing. Yes, there are good quality television series out there, but I am not a fan of never-ending stories. I feel that a story should have a coherent arc. I can’t understand a series that goes on just because it’s successful. I can feel the writer straining to maintain a successful series. They have to distort the narrative to keep it going. I like going to the cinema, sitting in a room with people and feeling an experience with them. My taste and inclination is for films, or maybe, a mini-series.
You’ve visited India as an ambassador for UNICEF. Tell us about your time in the country? I’ve been to Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. I had a great time in Madhya Pradesh and visited many fortresses and castles, which was a special experience. I even went to Khajuraho and loved it. I’d love to visit the southern parts of India.
Have you watched Indian films? I am a big fan of Satyajit Ray. I feel he’s a genius. The humanity of his films stands high, alongside Japanese filmmaker (Yasujiro) Ozu, as well as (Russian filmmaker Andrei) Tarkovsky. I think they are the great masters of film, especially the second half of the 20th century. I don’t think we see such quality now. That was the great period of filmmaking.
Is acting an easier craft now? Acting never gets easy. Technical experience helps, but the challenges remain the same. You’re always looking for some aspect of human truth in your performance. Acting is kind of a mystery, as there’s no knowing how [to do it right]. You hope to work with like-minded people and make a film you believe in, even if some elements around the actor are contradicting or in opposition.
The humanity of Ray’s films stands high, alongside Yasujiro Ozu and Andrei Tarkovsky. ACTOR