The Bayou in southern Louisiana takes center stage in director Bertrand Tavernier’s latest, “In the Electric Mist,” starring Tommy Lee Jones, John Goodman, Peter Sarsgaard and Mary Steenburgen. In the film, Jones plays Dave Robicheaux, a local detective hunting down a serial killer responsible for the death of several young women. After returning from a horrifying crime scene, he meets Hollywood star Elrod T. Sykes, currently in town shooting his latest film financed by local mobster “Baby Feet” Balboni. Elrod tells Dave he’s seen a decomposed black man in chains in the marsh of the bayou, which unleashes a painful memory of a previous case for Robicheaux. Additionally, he suspects the two cases may be linked. As he pursues the case and gets ever closer to the murderer, the murderer gets closer to his family.
“I had a wonderful time doing this movie,” said actor John Goodman in Berlin Saturday afternoon. “[The shoot] was ony three hours from my home – I love working in Louisiana.” Jones’ character, the clear protagonist, uses some unscrupulous tactics in pursuing his investigation, resulting in a few gasps in the audience during the film’s screening today at the Berlinale. “There’s corruption all around the world, but it’s more on the surface in Louisiana,” said Goodman who along with Tavernier praised the location as integral to the film.
“The location is definitely a character in the movie,” said Goodman. “Tavernier said the bayou should be a character in the movie, so I took a lot of time to find the right locations,” added D.P. Bruno de Keyzer. Added Tavernier, “It’s not like being a tourist and seeing the location. It’s important to be immersed in the environment. It ws a major challenge to get [the correct] visuals.”
Based on the novel “Into the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead” by Janes Lee Burke, the story unfolds prior to Hurricane Katrina, though the director decided to take liberty and include footage and reference to the disaster. “It seemed [odd] to me to go to Louisiana and not address Katrina,” said Tavernier defending his decision. “It gives the characters more depth.” Added Goodman, “Katrina is a way of life even after these years, and it’s going to be a way of life more many years to come.”
The script was also heavily influenced by Tommy Lee Jones who offered up ideas throughout and even a few original scenes, much to Tavernier’s approval. “He did a lot of contribution,” said Tavernier who spoke intermittantly in English and French during the post-screening press conference. “I worked so much with him on every scene… I [also] love working with actors who can bring you something not on the written page. An actor who can bring you something without a word, then that’s a wonderful thing and Tommy Lee Jones does that.”