Yorgos Lanthimos on Why He Wanted to Connect the Three Stories in ‘Kinds of Kindness’ Through Mysterious Character RMF: ‘His Presence Was Pivotal’

Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness” is split into three distinct but loosely connected stories. Who is the common denominator? A nonverbal character known only as RMF (Yorgos Stefanakos).

“It felt like a subtle way to connect the three stories other than the fact that the same actors play a different character in each story,” Lanthimos told Variety at the “Kinds of Kindness” premiere in New York City on Thursday night. “We didn’t want to have a main character reappearing, but a character that had a short time in the film. But at the same time, his presence was pivotal.”

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The Greek filmmaker noted that RMF doesn’t represent anything in particular: “You can apply any kind of explanation that you want or your own thoughts.”

“Kinds of Kindness” tells three stories — about a man who attempts to take control of his own life, a policeman whose wife seems like a different person after being lost at sea and a woman who is in search of someone with a special ability — with Emma Stone, Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Margaret Qualley, Hong Chau, Mamadou Athie and Joe Alwyn portraying different roles in each.

Athie recalled playing “a lot of theater games” and doing “some clown stuff” with his co-stars to prepare for the nearly three-hour anthology film.

“There was a rehearsal process, but that was more to get acquainted with each other — it wasn’t so much to explore the characters,” Dafoe explained. “The world is really complete. The world tells you what to do. I always like that situation, and then you get with each other and you bounce off each other.”

Although he appears briefly in the second vignette, titled “RMF Is Flying,” Dafoe felt his character in that storyline was the most challenging to embody because “it’s not a substantial role.”

“I think sometimes when you don’t have extensive writing, it’s difficult to find the right tone to be there, be there for the other people, and also give the same kind of commitment you would to that kind of character if it was an expansive role,” he said.

Alwyn shared a similar sentiment, telling Variety, “You just don’t want to upset the equilibrium of what’s already been set in the world that’s already there.”

“Kinds of Kindness” is in theaters now.

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