Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger star in the "dazzling tragi-comedy" The Door In The Floor by up-and-coming writer/director Tod Williams. It's based on the first section of the John Irving novel A Widow For One Year, which chronicles a marriage thrown into dysfunction after the couple's two sons are killed in a road accident. Although widely received as a moving and witty piece of filmmaking, the difficult subject matter was probably to blame for a poor box office showing.
Novel To Screen provides a neat introduction to this DVD with novelist John Irving explaining why he gave the screen rights to Tod Williams over many more experienced filmmakers. Above all, he was wary of seeing Hollywood turn this complex story into a simple murder mystery (involving the killing of a prostitute) and was intrigued by Williams' proposition to shoot only the first 180 pages. "Good novels are ruined in film because of trying to be too faithful," says Irving. "It's just bad filmmaking." It's an intriguing observation that leads into a more philosophical discussion of his experiences in Hollywood.
"I was feeling jaded, old and cynical," says Williams, "so I really related to the character of Ted." In Frame On The Wall he goes on to talk about the themes of the story and the challenges it presented in terms of tone and structure. This runs at almost half an hour and gets into the nitty-gritty of filmmaking with more depth than the average 'making of' featurette. It even includes early rehearsal footage as part of an investigation into the actors' process, with Basinger and Bridges on hand to talk about balancing their different styles.
On Ground Floor
From a brilliant series produced by The Sundance Channel, Anatomy Of A Scene provides a meticulous look at all aspects of production. The scene in question involves Bridges being chased by Evelyn (Mimi Rogers) and is of special interest because of the way it balances comedy and drama. Bridges et al insist it's just a matter of "playing it straight", but cinematography, editing, production design and music all play a significant part in getting the tone right. Even Bridges' floppy straw hat was crucial to the mix!
Like Anatomy Of A Scene, the feature commentary attempts to cover all corners with Williams joined by his cinematographer, editor, composer and, yes, his costume designer. Unfortunately too much chatter doesn't make for a very cohesive listening experience, but there are some interesting behind-the-scenes titbits to be had, eg Bridges sketched all the illustrations for Ted's books and even some of those saucy drawings of Evelyn. Aside from being a talented artist, Williams also credits Bridges with being, "The best at fake sleeping than any actor I know." Apparently he's got the "cottonmouth and everything".
At first glance this looks like a modest package of extras, but three extensive featurettes provide an unusually thoughtful analysis of the development and final execution of the film. In short, it's a Door well worth unlocking.