Set entirely inside a single apartment and with no foils for Dafoe’s character to rely on, Inside is completely dependent on his performance, which is so compelling you forget he is the only person on screen for the better part of 100 minutes.
It follows an art thief named Nemo (Dafoe) who gets trapped inside a collector’s apartment during a botched heist. Nemo is pushed to his limits, braving extreme temperatures, flooding and limited access to food and water, all within the confines of a luxury Manhattan apartment.
Despite the physical and psychological toll that Nemo suffers throughout the film, Dafoe said he was able to distance himself from his character’s tribulations.
“You’re going to some maybe dramatic places or some difficult places, but you’re also enjoying the interplay with the other people,” he said. “You’ve got the camera, you’ve got the film language behind you, so you’re playing with these things.”
More than just a psychological thriller, Inside considers the ways in which art rescues humans in modern society from an isolated existence — a way out from being trapped inside of ourselves. Through his meditations on William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Nemo discerns that liberation can only be attained through creation.
For Dafoe, the philosophical exploration of the human relationship to art was not as apparent in the script, but “really came out in the doing of it,” the actor recalled, reflecting on the ways he found beauty in making art pieces for the film.