Friday, November 16

Solomon’s “˜Levity’ goes deep


“Levity” contains a lot of moods, but the
film’s title is rarely one of them. Even Ed Solomon, the
film’s writer and director, attests to that.

“It’s about a guilty man who makes a horrible
mistake inexplicably,” Solomon said. “The central
character is kind of a ghost who floats through the
film.”

In the film, Billy Bob Thornton plays an ex-convict haunted by
the spirit of the man he murdered.

While conducting research for the screenplay ““ partly
inspired by Solomon’s work with a student group while at UCLA
““ Solomon met with murderers to talk about their experiences.
According to Solomon, everyone he talked to had two things in
common: they were all trying to reconcile themselves to what they
had done, and they all felt a “sense of futility.”

“They seemed to not believe they would ever make up for
what they did,” Solomon said.

While at UCLA, Solomon worked with a group called the Prison
Coalition, which tutored kids in maximum security youth prisons.
Aspects of their lives, as well as those of some of the murderers
he met, helped inspire the film’s main character. One
murderer kept a photo of his victim and would constantly look at
it, a trait that shows up in the film.

“He kept looking at a 2-D image trying to will a 3-D
person to come out,” Solomon said.

Similarly, Thornton’s character is trying to break away
from his past. In real life, Solomon broke away from his past
during the filmmaking process.

A UCLA economics graduate from 1982, Solomon is best known for
writing more lighthearted fare, such as “Bill and Ted’s
Excellent Adventure” and “Men in Black.” The
somber tone of “Levity” marks a distinct change in
Solomon’s career path. The project also marks his directing
debut.

“Really it’s all writing ““ where you put the
camera, how you cast the film,” Solomon said.
“You’re still telling the story.”

However, Solomon does acknowledge that major differences exist
between writing and directing, despite their similar goals.

“Writing is more isolated,” Solomon said.
“With directing you’re trying to marshal all these
forces into one kind of organic story.”

“As a first-time director, you’re constantly up
against your own lack of experience,” Solomon added.

Thankfully for him, Solomon had plenty of help on the project.
The film stars Thornton, Morgan Freeman, Holly Hunter and Kirsten
Dunst, and features a crew headed by Roger Deakins, a five-time
Academy Award-nominated cinematographer for such films as
“The Shawshank Redemption” and “O Brother, Where
Art Thou?”

Despite its title, “Levity” is an often harrowing
film about change, underscored by the change Solomon went through
to make it.

“(The project) was intimidating,” Solomon said.
“But everything that’s worth doing is also
intimidating.”

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