Thursday, May 05, 2011
MOVIES MADE ME #18: THE INVITATION
On the cusp of the new millennium, Lance Henriksen spoke in an AOL Celebrity Chat about the fate of Frank Black. Production on Season Three of MILLENNIUM was winding down, and fans were eager to know where the show’s hero would end up. One of them posed the question to Henriksen, who answered, “I see myself sitting on a beach with my daughter Jordan and talking about, almost in a new language, a man’s potential… and the things we’ve learned are about how people have advanced themselves. Intimacy is a different thing. Intimacy is the grand finale. I think what people fear the most is going to their grave alone. And what they desire the most is intimacy. Maybe I’ll be walking down the beach and drop dead.”
The MILLENNIUM series finale does sound some of these notes. The final images are of Frank Black and his daughter Jordan, talking about man’s potential for goodness as they head off into the sunset together. Ultimately, however, the series is open-ended. The fan-made series MILLENNIUM: APOCALYPSE picks up Jordan’s story several years later, but Frank’s fate remains a mystery. The only answers we have are the casual speculations of cast and crew-members who have spoken to “Back to Frank Black” over the past two years… and one overlooked film that Henriksen describes as a “Frank Black dream.”
THE INVITATION is a nearly-forgotten title in Henriksen's filmography, made for only a few hundred thousand dollars in 2002. In my opinion, it's a deeply flawed experiment. The story is muddled and the performances are uneven... but I love it anyway, for one very simple reason: It features Lance Henriksen at his most beatific..
I hadn't seen THE INVITATION until I was a few weeks into a series of in-depth biographical Q&As with Henriksen, and I was blown away by two scenes in particular. The first scene reunites Henriksen with fellow MILLENNIUM alum Sarah-Jane Redmond. Their onscreen chemistry, in a moment when she physically attacks him, is undeniable... As a result, the scene rises way above the melodramatic scenario they're playing out. It's amazing to see how vulnerable Redmond allows herself to become and how accepting Henriksen becomes in response. The entire movie is worth watching just for the looks on their faces at the end of this sequence.
In 2001, Henriksen talked to journalist Tim Ferrante about the project, and said that "the conditions were right for all the people involved. We sat around a table the first meeting and I said, ‘Let’s trust each other. The essence of this movie is that we trust each other to go as far as we wanna go in an honest way and support each other while we’re doing it. That’s what we’ve gotta do or we’re not gonna have a movie.’ I gotta tell you, the material made demands that are just dangerous, and if they worked we were gonna be somewhere, and if they didn’t it would only be because we didn’t take a chance.” The two actors surrendered themselves wholeheartedly to the film. The intimacy is real.
In a separate interview, Sarah-Jane Redmond raved about her co-star: "Lance Henriksen I simply cannot say enough about. I have worked with many 'stars,' and Lance has been by far the greatest example of grace, talent, joy, commitment, and generosity I have ever come across… He is so alive, so willing to play, and be challenged. I think that some found him intimidating, but if you can look him in the eye and 'dance,' there is a respect that is formed, and then the stage is wide open to play, and create dynamic scenes… It is clear to anyone who comes in contact with Lance that he loves his craft, and his exuberance for life comes through in his work."
The other scene in THE INVITATION that blows me away every time is the final scene in the movie. I can't say much about it without giving away important story points, but I will say that it's one of my favorite scenes in any Lance Henriksen film. People always talk about Lance's final scene in POWDER. To me, the final scene in THE INVITATION is just as powerful - because the actor's soul shines through, in his face and in his words. Both scene find the actor in a similar headspace. Henriksen explains: "The only thing that truly changes you is your fear of death. If it’s in the future, you can be in denial. But if [you're facing death] right now, it’s a different deal." Ultimately, POWDER and THE INVITATION are films about transcending the debilitating fear of death. The beauty of the final images overwhelm everything else in the films, because reveal the human being behind the onscreen character.
I told Lance that THE INVITATION seemed to me like a personal confession, in which he reveals himself as a flawed human being who works very hard to exercise the better angels of his nature. He agreed, noting that the "whole point of the movie was to tell the truth." That's what he does in those final moments... If the role of Frank Black broke him down, then THE INVITATION gave him an opportunity to surrender and experience a genuine moment of transcendence. In our interview, he added, “I’ve been to a lot of worlds – I’ve been to Australia, Africa, Thailand… They call Thailand the smiling country for a reason. These people absolutely have a Buddhist soul… That’s why I have a Buddha in my living room. To me, if I could allow the peace and acceptance of that reality... All the rest of life is not a reality. It’s a constructed story.”
Nothing else needs to be said... except HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LANCE!!! I'm proud to know you.
Labels: Lance Henriksen