WASHINGTON — People live in glass houses in Barry Levinson's new film, ``Disclosure.'' ``I wanted that look from the very beginning,'' Mr. Levinson says. ``I wanted to show this corporate world of offices and power structures and betrayals as a world full of paranoia, even violence. Everybody's spying on everybody else. It's a kind of violation - of your work, of your privacy. In this case, even of your gender.''
Thus, sexual harassment is only one of the many tensions that reach a boiling point in this picture.
``True, `Disclosure' is about a great deal more than just the issue of sexual harassment,'' Levinson continues. ``But, ultimately, I don't think I'd have done `Disclosure' if it weren't for the sexual harassment issue. Just to do a thriller, somehow, is not quite enough. But we can relate to this particular issue. It goes on; it's part of our lives. `Disclosure' is certainly not the definitive film on the subject, and it's not going to solve any problems. But the issue is valid and we can play with it and reveal it through the trappings of a thriller.''
Balancing the priorities of escapist entertainment with the agenda of a social problem can be very tricky indeed. Levinson shakes his head quizzically.
``Yes, if the subject matter is relevant to our lives, it can be detrimental to the entertainment movie, in a way. Sometimes I think the best thing you can do is make a movie about nothing. It's just entertainment. Then you're free of all the problems.''
In the same breath Levinson ruefully admits that his movies go in different directions. In spite of himself, his movies are indeed about things.
``That's right, and that's my fault,'' he laughs. ``I can't solve any problems. But I can't help it that I want to make movies about things we all can relate to - that I can relate to. If I look back at my work, I discover that, for example, `Diner' wasn't just about `hanging out.' It was about guys trying to understand women. They have no idea what they are all about. `Disclosure' is no different, except it has older men hanging out in corporate offices - but they still don't understand women!
``We're in an enormous transitional period. Women were excluded from the workplace for centuries.... It's only since World War II that we find ourselves having to redefine things. What do we do? What do we say? There are no easy boundaries, no cut-and-dried definitions anymore. In the movie you hear guys in the office talking about getting aroused by the new boss [Demi Moore]. They think it's funny, and I think most guys in the audience will think it's funny. But when that very same conversation is discussed during the mediation scene with the lawyers present and all that, in this new context, suddenly it's not funny at all.
``Now you're hearing about harassment of men in the workplace. That was inevitable, I guess. I find it intriguing when men find themselves in the position of saying the same things women have said. That's interesting because as a result of the talk shows and so much media hype we've been polarized and taken our positions so quickly. We've formed sides. And then, all of a sudden, things are reversed. Now what do we think? That to me is fun to explore.''