BERLIN • Kirsten Dunst unveiled a sci-fi thriller by acclaimed American director Jeff Nichols at the Berlin film festival, which takes inspiration from E.T. and updates it for the NSA (National Security Agency) generation.
Dunst, a former child actress, told reporters that Midnight Special, a supernatural story about parenthood, had appealed to her as she has grown more selective about film roles.
"There is a point, I think, with any job, if you do it that long, where you question whether... you want to continue doing that," said the Spider- Man actress. "I definitely had that and I think when I was around 27, I changed the way I worked and it made me love it even more."
Dunst, 33, and Michael Shannon, 41, play parents of a boy with superhuman powers in the film which is competing for the festival's top Golden Bear prize.
IndieWire magazine cited it as one of the most anticipated releases this year.
The boy radiates intense light from his eyes and speaks in tongues, qualifying him to become a prophet for a heavily armed doomsday cult in the American South. But his mutterings come out as numbers.
When the figures turn out to be coordinates to sensitive military sites, the federal authorities get involved, including an NSA communications analyst played by Adam Driver.
The movie touches on hot-button issues in a feverish United States political season including gun control, religious fundamentalism and sprawling state surveillance.
But Nichols, 37, said the seed of the story was in fact the difficult birth of his son and a search for ways to process the deep anxiety that arose from it.
"It made me realise in this moment that anything could happen to him and I would have no control, that I was forever going to be linked to this human being and, if anything ever happened to him out in the world, I would be devastated... and this fear kind of overtook me," he said.
Making the film, he said he borrowed from Steven Spielberg blockbusters he loved growing up, including E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, but updated them for a less innocent age.