E where no one has gone before. Stevenson‘s
Truly, Madly, Deeply is a film more about living than dying. Alan
Anthony Minghella and actress Juliet Stevenson about the film misleadingly hailed as ‘the British Ghost‘.
Morrison talks to writer/director ’ I l
ten years ago in a psychiatric hospital. Or. more precisely. on the BBC set for Minghella‘s first piece of television work. Maybury. which just happened to be set in a psychiatric hOSpital and starred Patrick Stewart long before he boldly went
involvement was limited to the first three episodes. but that was enough to convince Minghella that this young student would be perfect I for his first play. which was going into production immediately afterwards.
She succumbed instead to the charms ofthe RSC. but nevertheless the last decade has seen a close relationship develop from their six subsequent collaborations. which include the award-winning radio play Cigarettes and Chocolate. Their latest. Truly, Madly, Deeply,
was premiered almost a year ago at the London
Film Festival under the title Cello. It marks the
4 cinematic directorial debutofMinghella. although ' he admits that it was the writer in him that first set
the project in motion.
“ It’s a particularly English disease, this idea that part of the business of maturity is to restrain and constrict youremotional me,”
‘The film is a kind of celebration ofJuliet’s work as an actress. In a peculiar way it‘s like a vehicle film: if I were working for a studio in the 305. and Sam Goldwyn said to me ‘We‘ve got Juliet Stevenson coming to do three pictures — we want you to write one for her‘. this would be the kind of thing that would be made. What is particular of Juliet is also true ofwomen who are not actors— there‘s a whole set of decisions that a woman in her early 303 has to make in this time that we live in. If
Anthony Minghella and Juliet Stevenson first met l
Alaiiﬁlilctltman and Juliet Stevenson in Truly, Madly. Deeply
she happens to be in a developed career. how does she fit that in with her domestic life? How does she make relationships with men that are not simply partnering relationships? These are the sorts of questions that. however well handled. we tried to ask in the film.‘
‘And in the process of telling this story.‘ interjects Stevenson. still enthusiastic about a role she obviously relished. ‘you have the opportunity to do what almost no other script offers — the chance to explore someone with all their contradictions on board. It‘s absolutely true to say that male characters are always allowed far more contradictions; in fact the success of a piece of work is based on all those cliche’s like ‘strong but silent‘. whereas women still tend to be written in certain moulds and shapes. and the actress can only paint with certain colours.‘
Stevenson plays Nina. a young translator. popular with her neighbours and workmates. who is struggling to come to terms with the death of her lover. Jamie (played by Alan Rickman). But Jamie returns. a little paler. certainly. and with a cold coming on. For a few days they shut themselves off to the outside world. hoping life will go on as before. interrupted only by Jamie‘s new-found friends who are eager to spend the rest of their afterlives catching up on classic films on Nina‘s video cassette recorder.
The ‘lover back from the dead‘ structure has caused the film to be compared. inevitably but unfairly. with Ghost. But rather than lose itselfin the walking-through-walls special effects of the Patrick Swayze film. Truly. Madly. Deeply offers a literate script full of comedy and warmth. While the rest ofthe British film industry is content to fulfil an obsession with a falsely nostalgic costume-drama past. or (on rarer occasions) take a
. low-budget look at contemporary urban living
from a working-class perspective. it unashamedly
approaches middle-class preoccupations head on.
‘I‘m very conscious that some people find this
~ film‘s emotions quite high and undiluted.‘
Minghella admits. ‘It‘s a particularly English
disease. this idea that part ofthe business of maturity is to restrain and constrict your emotional
life. On the other hand. the idea of bereavement was not something that preoccupied me particularly. People are always burdened by the emotional baggage they accumulate in their lives. and so this film is really a sort of parable.‘
Parable it may be. but preachy it is not. It is much more of a comic fairy tale. perhaps showing glimpses of Minghella‘s work with Jim Henson on the Emmy and BAFI‘A award-winning NBC series The Storyteller. for which he adapted various European folk and fairy tales.
‘It was always meant to be a comedy in the strict sense of the word.‘ he continues. ‘Like traditional comedy. it‘s moving all the time towards resolution. The comedies that I‘ve appreciated have often been quite sad — the two humours are very closely related. In Shakespeare‘s so-called comedies. there is a huge amount of pain involved.
and often the comedy comes out of the pain.‘
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The mention of the Bard prompts Stevenson to make an observation: ‘He does look like Shakespeare. actually. They share the same hairline.‘
‘People say that all the time.‘ Minghella admits modestly. ‘Mario Shakespeare. the famous pizza shop owner.‘
Truly. Madly. Deeply opens at the Filmhouse. Edinburgh on Thurs 5 Sept and at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sun 29 Sept.
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The List 30 August — 12 September 199121