Ralph Fiennes talked with Film Society of Lincoln Center's Kent Jones following a screening of The Constant Gardener on December 12, 2005.
Since he burst onto the movie scene in the early 90s, Ralph (that's pronounced "Rafe") Fiennes has raised the bar in movie acting. Few actors are better at conveying the physical impact of emotional upset. Waves of feeling seem to pass through Fiennes's characters in Schindler's List, Quiz Show, The English Patient, The End of the Affair and in the upcoming The White Countess (directed by James Ivory from a script by Kazuo Ishiguro). His performances are animated in the most surprising and moving ways: with Fiennes, a smile or a turn of the head can embody a world of heartbreak. An adventurous artist who thrives on challenges, Fiennes is also blessed with one of the most musical vocal instruments in movies, and he employs it to devastating effect.
Fiennes joined us to discuss his career and his approach to acting. Before and after the discussion, two of the very finest examples of his work were shown. In Fernando Mereilles's brilliant adaptation of John Le Carré's The Constant Gardener, Fiennes is Justin Quayle, a quietly recessive career diplomat who is immediately taken with Rachel Weisz's outspoken activist Tessa. When Justin is stationed in Africa, Tessa becomes a vocal opponent of the big drug companies, who are performing drug trials on an unsuspecting and impoverished population. When Tessa is murdered, Justin devotes his life to uncovering the truth about his wife, and the savagery behind the corporate/diplomatic circles in which he travels. Fiennes's Justin is a performance of uncommon delicacy and one of the richest creations of the year.