The First World War has greatly influenced the main characters in the eccentric tragicomedy ‘Amsterdam’. But they do everything they can to keep rose-colored glasses on. ‘Inspiring’, says actor Christian Bale, who helped write it for six years.
If it clicks, why hesitate? The British actor Christian Bale has often worked with the same director. Adam McKay (“The Big Short” and “Vice”), Scott Cooper (“Out of the Furnace,” “Hostiles” and soon-to-be-released Netflix thriller “The Pale Blue Eye”) and Christopher Nolan (“Batman” trilogy and ‘The Prestige’) are examples. But the filmmaker Bale feels most at home with is David O. Russell. First they made ‘The Fighter’ (immediately good for an Oscar), then ‘American Hustle’ and now ‘Amsterdam’.
The story, a curious mix of genres, contains a kernel of historical truth, the ‘Business Plot’, a far-right conspiracy that wanted to install a dictatorship in the United States in 1933. There, Russell weaves a colorful and extremely diverse tapestry of genres, from mystical thriller over romantic comedy to pure slapstick.
I already knew Matthias Schoenaerts, director Michael Mann sent the DVD of ‘Rundskop’. I thought it was a phenomenal performance.
The filmmaker doesn’t always have the money to fashion a coherent whole out of it, though the film is saved by its impressive cast, which includes Taylor Swift, Anya Taylor-Joy and Matthias Schoenaerts in addition to Bale and Robert De Niro. “I already knew him,” Bale says of the latter. ‘Director Michael Mann sometimes sends me DVDs because he thinks my film culture leaves something to be desired. One of them was ‘Rundskop’. I thought it was a phenomenal interpretation.’
At the age of 48, the British actor has an impressive record – he broke through as a 13-year-old with Spielberg’s ‘Empire of the Sun’ – but ‘Amsterdam’ still holds a special place. Russell and he exchanged thoughts on the story six years ago. Never before has Bale been so involved in the process of creating a film. His character, Burt Berendsen, is a New Yorker who experiences all kinds of horrors at the front during the First World War. He is left with permanent physical injuries (including a glass eye), but refuses to be crushed
The protagonist realizes that his experiences can turn him into a man full of hatred and cynicism, and decides to take a different path. Choice versus necessity is an important theme in the film.
“He seems naïve at times, but it’s purposeful naïveté,” says Bale. ‘He realizes that his experiences can turn him into a man full of hatred and cynicism, and decides to take a different path. Choice versus necessity is an important theme in the film. Burt chooses every day to be happy, someone who loves life and people. It’s his ultimate rebellion and I find it very inspiring.’
The title ‘Amsterdam’ also has such an optimistic meaning. He refers to the period Burt spends with his best friends Harold (John David Washington) and Valerie (Margot Robbie) in the Dutch capital after the war. But he mainly refers to an idea: ‘In Amsterdam, life fell into its fold and they could be themselves. The three have a close and enviable friendship. That’s what David and I wanted to create: characters you wish were your friends.’
And if it’s up to the actor, he wants to work with Russell even more often. “David is a unique man and director,” says Bale. ‘He likes nothing more than telling a story with a group of people who all think it’s great. You can also always give him your opinion.’ It’s not as obvious as it sounds, because Russell has a reputation in the film world. Several actors – such as George Clooney and Amy Adams – refuse to work with him because he can be extremely hot-tempered and does not dare to treat his actors with respect.
During the filming of ‘American Hustle’, Bale even intervened because he thought Russell was going too far with Amy Adams. “Look, David is strong-willed,” says Bale. “He pours his heart and soul into every film. With him, you have to know your character inside out because he’s constantly throwing new dialogue at you or changing scenes. I love it. And I’m clearly not the only one, because De Niro has been on the set with David four times.’
‘Amsterdam’ will be available on Disney+ from Wednesday, December 28.
Christian Bale (48)
Was born in Wales but moved constantly as a child.
Started acting at a young age and got his breakthrough at 13 with Steven Spielberg’s war drama ‘Empire of the Sun’ (1987).
In 2000, he scored a cult hit with ‘American Psycho’, based on the infamous book by Bret Easton Ellis.
Likes to disappear completely into a role, for example by starving his body (‘The Machinist’, ‘Rescue Dawn’) or fortifying (Batman series).
Won numerous acting awards, including an Oscar for David O. Russell’s ‘The Fighter’.
‘Amsterdam’ is his third collaboration with Russell.