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Loss And Identity In Atom Egoyan's 'Adoration'

JACKI LYDEN, host:

A young boy, his troubled uncle, his mysterious French teacher and a lie that spins out of control. This is the complicated heart of "Adoration," the new film from Canadian director Atom Egoyan.

(Soundbite of movie "Adoration")

Mr. DEVON BOSTICK (Actor): (As Simon) What they found at the bottom of my mother's bag were concealed plastic explosives and a detonator. And if the bomb had gone off in mid-air, as my father intended, all 400 people onboard that flight would've perished.

LYDEN: It all begins when 16-year-old Simon performs a monologue that convinces his classmates that he's the son of a well-known terrorist. Or does it begin years earlier, with a sad-faced young woman playing the violin on a dock?

Luckily, we have Atom Egoyan here to answer these questions. He joins me now from our Culver City studios. Hello, there.

Mr. ATOM EGOYAN (Director, "Adoration"): Hi.

LYDEN: So how would you describe what's going on in this film?

Mr. EGOYAN: Well, I think a lot is going on in the head of this young boy, Simon. He is somebody who has been orphaned at a young age, and he doesn't really have access to who his parents are. He has a very controlling grandfather who has idealized his mother.

The grandfather has created this story, which basically led to Simon having to believe that his father killed his mother in a purposeful murder-suicide, and something in Simon doesn't really believe this anymore.

He embraces this story that's told to him by a French teacher, drama teacher, in a translation exercise, which is a story based on an episode some people might remember where a Jordanian man talked his Irish girlfriend, who was pregnant with their child, onto an El Al flight.

LYDEN: Yes, I remember that.

Mr. EGOYAN: And unbeknownst to her, he had planted a bomb in her handbag, and that to me seems to be the most demonic and evil thing that a father could possibly do. And Simon, hearing this story, creates this narrative where he is that child, and he uses that as a springboard to project this image of the father as demon and in the process reformats what his relationship to his parents actually was.

It's a complex story, but I think it's all rooted in very clear emotions, and the clearest one is that at a certain point, children need to know where they're from.

LYDEN: In this film, at the beginning, I had trouble believing in these characters because I couldn't believe that a teacher would be as devious as the French teacher, Sabine, or that a teenage boy would be as eloquent as Simon.

Mr. EGOYAN: Well, I think we can't really understand Sabine until much later on. She, you know, her motivations are very layered. So it is challenging for a viewer to understand why these people are behaving that way, and certainly Simon's eloquence is something that she constructs or helps construct, and all these characters are distorting themselves and taking themselves into places that are not immediately natural or even believable, but that's the risk and challenge of the movie, I think.

I think it's also possible with these technologies, especially with the Internet, for people to take on alternate identities very easily. And when Simon puts his story out onto the Internet, you know, groups and responses are formed which are not in any way traditional. Some of them are very extreme.

LYDEN: Well, let me talk about that. One of the devices that you used is a sort of computerized Greek chorus, where you see people talking back to Simon in split-screen on his computer. I was actually thinking of calling it the geek chorus because it's where everybody seems to meet, and it's kind of have an echo chamber. Would you tell me about using that device?

Mr. EGOYAN: Well, the device that's used in the film is a visual extension of what happens on a blog, where people are creating a dialogue. I think the next step of that is that groups of people can actually interact with another, and this film might be set slightly in the future, where those contacts are much speedier than they are right now.

But what happens as a result is that there's no filter in terms of what people say. There's not the traditional sense of people reflecting on what they're feeling before they actually express it because there's such an acceleration with the Internet.

LYDEN: At the end of this film, Simon, Tom and Sabine seem like they might be forming a new and unconventional sort of family. I'm just wondering what you want your audiences to come away feeling about the possibility of taking what you had supposed is true and creating a new sense of center.

Mr. EGOYAN: I think it's the most generous act in the film. Tom, this boy's uncle, who is dealing with a woman who's quite neurotic and potentially…

LYDEN: A stalker.

Mr. EGOYAN: …a stalker, unstable. But this woman ends up being the only person who can explain to this boy who his father was. Whether or not that family will persist, whether or not it will last longer than, you know, a week is left open. But that moment, I think, is very positive in the film.

LYDEN: Director Atom Egoyan. His new film is called "Adoration," which will be in theaters this Friday. Thank you very, very much.

Mr. EGOYAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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