Director Shawn Synder‘s new film To Dust is a poignant tale that centers on an Orthodox Jewish man dealing with the death of his wife.

Shmuel (Géza Röhrig), in shock after the sudden passing of his wife, becomes friends with a college biology professor and the pair go on a journey to decide what to do with her body and how to deal with the afterlife.

“[Schmuel] is certainly in search of spiritual solace, but his grief keeps manifesting itself as this gnawing need to understand what’s happening to her body as she decomposes,” Synder explained in an exclusive video with uInterview. “He’s working his way through the rigid and very specific Jewish mourning rituals and yet his grief is spilling outside the boundaries of these rituals.”

Matthew Broderick plays Albert, the biology professor Shmuel meets in the film. Rohrig — a Hungarian actor best known for his role in the 2015 Oscar-nominated foreign language film Son of Saul — added he believes his character is more complex than he initially seems.

“I think Shmuel is somewhat enigmatic,” said Rohrig. “He speaks very few words, he’s obviously devastated. He’s the father of twins and his spouse [suffers] an untimely death. Because he’s an Orthodox Jew and a Hasidic Jew, he must have married her very young, and she’s the only woman in his life.”

He continued by describing the differences in personalities and problem-solving approaches that Shmuel and Albert have in the film.

“That obsession [with what’s happening to his wife’s body] is healed by this very strange friendship with Albert, who is more like a left-brain guy,” said Rohrig. “He collects data and is analytical, as opposed to Shmuel, who is more like a right-brain person. He works more with his intuition.”

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Rohrig revealed that he “recognizes” himself in Shmuel, and that this consequently made playing the part slightly less challenging. He also called acting alongside Broderick “a gift” and praised the actor for his “subtle and nuanced’ comedic acting in the serious film.

Synder noted that the idea for To Dust came from deeply personal experiences, as he lost his mother a decade ago. Like Rohrig, the director said working with Broderick — as well as the Hungarian actor — was a delight.

“[It’s been] a complete joy and utterly surreal process, and it’s a strange film to have been made and to have been [completed] with this level of collaboration and this caliber of talent,” said Snyder.

To Dust will be released on Feb. 8 and has strong early reviews. Read uInterview’s review now.

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