Stone says latest film challenges "Prozac society"

BERLIN (Reuters) - Sharon Stone says she found her role as a depressed and taciturn woman in her latest film strangely uplifting, as it challenged what she called “Prozac society”.

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“When a Man Falls in the Forest” is in competition at the Berlin Film Festival, where it was screened on Monday, and brings the Hollywood star together with art house director Ryan Eslinger making only his second movie.

The surreal low-budget picture about three dysfunctional characters has little plot but raises fundamental questions about existence, relationships and guilt.

Stone plays middle-aged Karen, who feels cut off from society and indulges in petty theft to escape the monotony and loneliness of life.

Her partner Gary, played by Timothy Hutton, tries to rekindle his former passion for her, while Bill (Dylan Baker) is a lonely janitor who seeks thrills through dreams.

“Everybody goes through times in their lives when they feel like they’re disappearing, when they feel like no one is seeing them or hearing them,” Stone told reporters in Berlin. “I certainly think that it’s prevalent in middle age.”

Stone said playing her character was a positive experience because it challenged how people were expected to behave.

“It was a watershed experience,” said the 48-year-old actress. “I think that we live in a...Prozac society where we’re always told we’re supposed to have this kind of equilibrium of emotion. We have all these assignments about how we’re supposed to feel about something.”

Stone was asked if she minded being remembered in most cinema-goers’ minds for her performance in the 1992 blockbuster “Basic Instinct”, specifically for the scene where she crosses and uncrosses her legs during police questioning.

“I think everybody has a breakthrough film, and that’s the film that allows you to continue in motion pictures, the film that allows you to make and finance other motion pictures,” said Stone, who is also executive producer on “When a Man Falls”.

“I’m really glad that the fame and the clout that that film brought me has allowed me to make other pictures and to do the humanitarian work that I do. So I’m very grateful to have made a picture that had such a strong impact.”

Eslinger, whom Stone compared to veteran film-maker Martin Scorsese in his directing style, took the title for the movie from the popular riddle about whether a tree falling in the forest when no-one is there to hear it actually makes a sound.

“If a person goes through life without really knowing anybody, do they exist?” Eslinger said.

The U.S. director said he did not intend deliberately to create a film in the European style, but added: “The European films that I’ve watched recently, or the Asian cinema, just seem to not to have such a regimented structure as American films.”