Mass: The film exploring forgiveness in the aftermath of an American school shooting | Ents & Arts News

On the day of the Parkland School shooting in Florida, Valentine’s Day 2018, like many, actor Fran Kranz found himself trying to make sense of the insane.

Fourteen students and three teachers died in the massacre, who came after so many others before: Columbine, Aurora, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook. Just a few weeks ago, four students were killed after a Another student opened fire on his high school near Detroit in Michigan.

Kranz, probably best known at the time for his portrayal of Topher Brink in the sci-fi drama series Dollhouse, as well as films like Cabin In The Woods and The Village, went online to order books on the massacres. First becoming a father in 2016, the Parkland shooting touched him so much that he couldn’t help but do something, he says.

At mass, two parent couples – Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton (pictured) and Reed Birney and Ann Dowd – meet years after a life-tearing tragedy Photo: Bleecker Street / Sky UK

Tragedy became the catalyst for his directorial debut, Mass; a crude and painfully intimate story of two couples of parents meeting in the wake of such a shooting. Starring Jason Isaacs, Martha Plimpton, Ann Dowd and Reed Birney, it takes place almost entirely in one room; just four people, sitting around a table, talking.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2021 and was critically acclaimed and received the Independent Spirit Robert Altman Award in December – an honor bestowed on all of the cast, director and director. casting director of a film, and previously won by artists like Oscar. Moonlight and Spotlight winners.

Kranz told Sky News that through Mass he wanted to explore themes of forgiveness and reconciliation; feelings which, to those faced with the darkest of situations, may seem impossible to obtain.

“I wanted to believe that they were possible – they were possible in my own life and in the life of my family and in the world,” he says. “We have these shoots in our country so frequently that it preoccupied and confused me, as a new parent. What would happen? And so I was trying with this film, in a lot of ways, just to work on my own. feelings on the topic of forgiveness. “

Kranz also drew on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a restorative justice body established in 1996 to investigate human rights violations after the end of apartheid, chaired by the late Desmond Tutu, and The Pardon Project.

“I felt like I wanted to do something with these stories,” he says. “But I’m not South African and I didn’t know how I would participate in something like this … [then] on the day of the Parkland shooting I was so upset that I went to Amazon and ordered several books on mass shootings in America. I just thought, I need to figure out what’s going on here.

“That’s what started this kind of two years, basically, of just reading the topic. And it got to a point where there was a moment, especially around reading about the tragedy of [Sandy Hook], because of the age of these children … it was so emotional to cry in front of a laptop. “

Kranz wrote and rewrote scenes for Mass, he said, realizing at first that the dialogue was “too decent, too polite … too rote”. But it was something he felt he had to do, and knew he had to succeed.

In Mass, two sets of parents - Reed Birney and Ann Dowd, and Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton - agree to speak privately years after a tragedy that has torn their entire lives apart.  Photo: Bleecker Street / Sky UK
The film is mostly set in a room, where all four parents sit and talk. Photo: Bleecker Street / Sky UK

“I’ve tried writing things before and never really had the guts or the kind of follow-through to do anything. But there was a point where I felt I had to do this movie because What is the point of all this? What good is all this emotion? What good is reading all this and discovering the personal lives of so many families, children, teachers, parents … I just had to do something.”

As part of his research, Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale, Hereditary, Compliance) read A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold, the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the authors of the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999.

“She had lived the unimaginable story of [my character] Linda’s life, essentially, of her son being the shooter, shooting many others, killing himself. So i read it [but] I didn’t dwell on that, because the script was powerful and sufficient. “

Mass director Fran Kranz and stars Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs, Ann Dowd, Reed Birney at the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards in Los Angeles on November 13, 2021. Photo: AP / Faye Sadou / MediaPunch / IPX
Left to right: Mass director Fran Kranz with stars Plimpton, Isaacs, Dowd and Birney. Photo: AP / Faye Sadou / MediaPunch / IPX

Despite the fierce arguments over gun laws in the United States, there is no policy en masse. get to a better place, ”Kranz says.

“If we can focus on empathizing with people, we might find another way, or we might find ourselves in a place where some of these issues seem easier to resolve because we approach them from a place of compassion. for each other, as opposed to the adversarial approach of: you are doing something wrong and have to stop. ”

Plimpton (The Goonies, Beautiful Girls) and Isaacs (Harry Potter Films, The OA, Hotel Mumbai) play Gail and Jay, the parents of one of the victims.

“At the time when I was reading [the script] First, it was clear the world was incredibly divided, ”Isaacs told Sky News. “Trump was President of the United States and used blame as a tool, and Britain was divided by Brexit. [Mass] is a film about people whose lives have come to a standstill because they are so crippled with hate, blame and resentment, and they poison themselves for it. And it was kind of a plea for a human connection.

“It’s such a brave and daring subject to want to tell a story, but it was so personal and human; [it] had, at the same time, this captivating element of, I was desperate to know what happened next. Four people enter a room; it is as if something terrible or wonderful could happen. “

It’s a movie, essentially, “about four people talking,” he says. “It doesn’t have any special effects, mountains or aliens. It’s four human beings interacting at their rawest.”

Isaacs says he hopes the audience isn’t “misled” into thinking Mass is a movie about a school shooting. “It really has nothing to do with it,” he said. “It happened many years before the movie. We are a couple whose marriage has ended, our lives have ended and we want to be able to move on … I don’t think it is. are dealing with the specific people to whom this has happened. “

Plimpton disagrees. “We have a different perspective,” she says. But they agree that the central theme of the film is to move forward in the face of unspeakable tragedy.

“It has the specifics of the universal, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious,” Isaacs says. “This is for anyone whose life is held back by hatred or division or the idea that someone else is to blame.”

“Grief,” Plimpton adds.

Mass is a matter of mourning and advancement: four people, seated in a room, talk about it.

Mass is released in cinemas and on Sky Cinema from January 20

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