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Franz Rogowski on ‘Passages’: ‘Love, Sometimes, Is Ridiculous and Painful’

Rogowski joined Adèle Exarchopoulos and Ben Whishaw at the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, to talk Ira Sachs' "Passages."

Franz Rogowski, Ben Whishaw and Adele Exarchopoulos at the IndieWire Sundance Studio, Presented by Dropbox on January 23, 2023 in Park City, Utah.

“Passages,” Ira Sachs’ bruising eighth feature, almost seems like it’s headed toward a kind of origin story of his own relationship in real life: This film, co-written with Mauricio Zacharias forms a triumvirate around filmmaker Tomas (Franz Rogowski), artist Martin (Ben Whishaw), and mysterious Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Sachs co-parents a child with filmmaker Kirsten Johnson and painter Borris Torres, so anyone who knows the director personally may see the parallels. However, “Passages” has much more vitriol in its bones, more akin to Mike Nichols’ wounding relationship studies “Carnal Knowledge” and “Closer,” but with a distinctly European flair, as the film is set in and around Paris.

Rogowski, Whishaw, and Exarchopoulos joined the IndieWire Studio at Sundance, presented by Dropbox, to talk their festival Premieres title, which was recently acquired by MUBI for theatrical/streaming release. As Sachs does not typically host any kind of rehearsal process, the actors got to know each other in real-time on set, with the script sometimes taking new shape during production as well.

“The way he composed those relationships was very interesting from the start, but it’s true that I had some concerns regarding the credibility, because [Tomas’] decisions seem to be sometimes so irrational or mean that it was hard for me in the beginning to find access to his world and the reasons that drive his decisions,” said Rogowski, whom Sachs called upon to star in “Passages” after seeing his karaoke rendition of Sia in Michael Haneke’s “Happy End.” Indeed, Tomas is mercurial in love, often needy and struggling to define who he is and what he wants, and his lovers bear the brunt of his indecision.

“Being a human being that loves and desires and is full of fear and hope and spontaneous decision, it felt rather easy,” Rogowski said. “It’s not just about this character being hard to understand. It’s also very funny how it’s combined sometimes, it’s also very ridiculous. Love, sometimes, is ridiculous and painful, but also, it always comes back to very human and intimate moments that allow you to accept the more challenging ones.”

“I actually think [Franz Rogowski’s character] is extremely relatable. It’s not extreme what he does. It’s just that Ira shows it. People do this all the time. They say one thing, they do another, they change their minds about something. We all do it all the time, I do it anyway. I find the erraticness and mercurial… I think that’s very human,” Whishaw said. “[Ira] doesn’t tidy it up, make it nicer.”

“Passages” premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It will be distributed by MUBI later this year.

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