Wallace Shawn, who translated the play -- and so well! -- in this new version, which was first done as legitimate theater under the direction of André Gregory. Shawn then adapted that transla-tion into this screenplay, directed by Jonathan Demme (shown at right). Triple-threat Shawn, shown below, also acts the leading role of the master architect Halvard Solness as though he were born to play it. Perhaps he was. I doubt I shall ever associate another actor so thoroughly with this role.
Jeff Biehl, above, left -- a talented architect who works under Solness' thumb. Gregory's one scene, in which he begs Solness to honor his son's work, is one of the most moving I've encountered in a long while.
Julie Hagerty in the role of Aline Solness, Halvard's beaten-down wife. Ms Hagerty may be best known for her dizzy comic timing in movies such as Airplane! and A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, but her dramatic chops are fully in evidence here. She makes Aline somehow a figure of improbable yet enormous neurasthenic strength.
Larry Pine (above, right, as the local doctor) and Emily Cass McDonnell (as Solness' bookkeeper/mistress -- another life waiting to be destroyed) complete this remarkable cast.
Cindy Kleine's André Gregory: Before and After Dinner opened theatrically, we saw in that documentary scenes of the Master Builder play being rehearsed or maybe even performed. Those scenes looked very good, as I recall. But little could have prepared us for just how good this production really is.
A MASTER BUILDER (can't think why Shawn changed the title from the original The to an A, but I guess he's entitled) opens this Wednesday, July 23, for a two-week run in New York City exclusively at Film Forum. Distributed by Abramorama and running two hours and seven minutes, it will undoubtedly play theaters elsewhere, too. But since Abramorama still does not have a working website (come on, get with the program!), we'll never know....