Desert Island DVDs: David Swatling

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Native New Yorker David Swatling studied theatre at Syracuse University. After graduation, he embarked on a career in the theatre. Over the course of a decade, he acted in numerous off-Broadway productions. His final acting role on American soil was an appearance in Madonna’s breakout feature film Desperately Seeking Susan.

Relocating to Amsterdam in 1985, he continued to work as an actor and produced arts and culture programming for Radio Netherlands. He has won multiple awards including the NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Award.

David’s first novel, Calvin’s Head, was published in 2010. A hugely entertaining suspense-filled mystery. The book is a refreshingly different take on the genre. Stream-of-consciousness prose, murder, romance, and a dog feature in a book which defies categorisation.

An incisive and enlightening speaker, David will once again be a panellist at Iceland Noir.

Taking time out from a return visit to his homeland, David talked about his castaway classics.

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Don’t Look Now (UK, Italy, 1973)

‘No film has quite disturbed me more than Nicholas Roeg’s 1973 psychological thriller adapted from a short story by Daphne du Maurier. I remember leaving the London movie theatre where I saw it with a knot in my stomach that kept me awake all night. Brilliant performances by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, as a married couple who travel to Venice after the accidental drowning of their young daughter, combined with Roeg’s haunting images and fluid timeline, made an indelible impression on my twenty-one year old psyche. So much so that upon visiting Venice nearly forty years later, I kept catching glimpses of a small figure in a red raincoat disappearing around corners.’

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Spoorloos (The Vanishing) (Netherlands, France, 1988)

‘Stanley Kubrick called Dutch director George Sluizer’s 1988 film the most terrifying thriller he’d ever seen. Based on a novel by Tim Krabbé, it’s the story of a young Dutch couple on vacation in France. Stopping at a rest area, the woman disappears and her frantic husband spends years trying to discover what happened to her. The viewer already knows but the suspense becomes unbearable when the husband meets the abductor, who offers a bizarre proposal. The unusual structure and philosophical tone of the film make it far superior to an American remake, which Sluizer also directed.’

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La mala educación (Bad Education) (Spain, 2004)

‘Could I have a box-set of all Perdro Almodovar’s films, please? If not, I’ll choose this one—a stylized murder mystery with LGBT characters, combining my two favorite literary genres. The plot is multilayered and complex, including a story within a story, shifting identities, and another fluid timeline. Do you see a pattern emerging here? It’s all holds together with a powerful performance by Gael Garcia Bernal, who I wouldn’t mind accompanying me on that desert island.’

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La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) (France, 1946)

‘Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of the classic 18th century fairy tale could also be considered a thriller. The dialogue is kept to a minimum and the visuals are magical, not to mention a beautifully haunting score by Georges Auric. The overall effect is dream-like, in the best and scariest ways.’

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Cinema Paradiso (Italy, 1988)

‘I must admit, I had to look up the director’s name of this 1988 Acadamy Award winning film. Giuseppi Tornatore. A romantic love story to the movies—mostly told from a young boy’s point of view—it made me laugh, cry, and cheer at the end. Oh, that final montage! I could watch it over and over and over again. So I have to wonder, why has it been so long since I’ve seen this utterly delightful film?’

Thanks to David Swatling and Iceland Noir.

Iceland Noir booking information.

David Swatling is published by Bold Strokes Books.

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