CANNES, France — Robert Redford makes actions speak louder than words in shipwreck drama “All Is Lost.”
He doesn’t have much choice. A man-vs.-nature tale about a lone sailor adrift on the Indian Ocean, J.C. Chandor’s movie has no dialogue, just a few lines of voiceover and a few heartfelt expletives.
Redford said he was excited by “the challenge of being solitary, alone, without having the crutch of words.”
“All Is Lost” was screened out of competition at Cannes, where both it and 76-year-old screen icon Redford got a warm reception. The Independent newspaper declared the film “utterly compelling viewing,” while Variety called Redford “superb.”
“I believe in the value of silence in film,” Redford said. “I believe it in life as well, because there’s a lot of talk around — maybe too much.”
Silence “forces you as an actor to be completely inhabiting your role. If you’re not, it’s going to show. And that’s an attractive challenge.
“It allows you to be totally free and unaware of everything around you except ... the boat, the sea and the troubles that were coming.”
Chandor said he wrote the script with Redford in mind.
Alone on screen for the film’s hour and 45 minutes, Redford gives a master class in physical acting. His famous face, as brown and grained as the wood of his yacht, is silently expressive. Confined to the claustrophobic setting of a damaged yacht — and later a tiny life raft — he conveys the character’s physical struggle with the elements and his deteriorating condition.
While stunt performers were used for some scenes of the movie, filmed in large part on the open sea, Redford took pride in jumping into the physical rough-and-tumble.
“I thought, well, if I could do some of these action things myself, it would be better,” Redford said, “and pretty good for my ego, so why not?”
Chandor said he relished stripping the actor of “his most beautiful tool besides the jawline — his voice.”
He also said that silencing an actor with Redford’s power as an icon helped give the film a deeper resonance.
Redford said the film could be seen in any number of ways. As a reflection on nature and our destructive relationship with it, perhaps.
Or, he said, it could be seen as a counterpoint to our hyperactive, technology-driven world.
“This film is about having none of that. ... Nothing but the weather, a man, a boat — that’s it.”
Fundamentally, though, he’s happy for audiences to form their own interpretation.