Matthew Broderick, a rabbi and a sacrificial pig walk into this film about death in "To Dust"


Two-time Tony Award-winning actor Matthew Broderick and Shawn Snyder, the writer and director of his new film, joined Salon's Alli Joseph on "Salon Talks.” “To Dust,” a tragi-comedy, explores the questions many of us have about death, complicated by religious beliefs.

Shmuel, played by Géza Röhrig, is a Hasidic cantor in upstate New York. Distraught over the untimely death of his wife and quietly obsessing over how her body will decay, Shmuel seeks out Broderick's character Albert, a lackluster local community college biology professor, who he hopes will help him find the answers he seeks.

Broderick has been making audiences laugh and feel since his Broadway run of “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in 1983, and is no stranger to quirky characters. Snyder studied religion at Harvard University years before embarking on an in-depth anthropological research journey to find out exactly what happens to our bodies when we die.

This curiosity, fueled by a sense of incomplete loss around Snyder mother's death 10 years ago, begot “To Dust,” which is darkly funny and thoughtful, and opens in theaters nationwide February 8.

Both actor and director noted that there’s a difficult, but spiritual element to staring this reality in the face. "The character I play wants to avoid those feelings, but he's the type to not think about it, and he hides them at first," Broderick said. "Certainly working on the movie made me think about death, frankly, and it delves into what is death physically, something nobody likes to think about, but everybody's curious about it," he noted matter-of-factly.

A central theme of the movie is how far humans go to avoid seeing death and decay, and yet the characters unearth several deceased creatures and descend into some awkward, morbid and illegal scenarios on their earnest quest for answers.

Snyder added, "The movie is sort of this exploration of the right to personal meaning, the right to honor someone who has been lost, and to cope in a way that is befitting to the individual and that specific relationship.”

Watch the episode above to hear more about how Broderick connected with the role and the movie’s hilarious pig scene.


About “Salon Talks”

Hosted by Salon journalists, “Salon Talks” episodes offer a fresh take on the long-form interview format, and a much-needed break from the partisan political talking heads that have come to dominate the genre. “Salon Talks” is a destination for information through conversation. Viewers can expect discussions with A-list actors, artists, authors, thinkers, and newsmakers as we explore the full range of the human condition. The show streams live on Facebook and Twitter and each episode is published in full on Salon.com.

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