‘I know Robert Murphy‘s influences when writing it were Chinatown and Angel Heart.’ says director David Hayman. the well-known Scottish actor who moved behind the camera for Silent Scream and The Hawk. ‘All I told my team was this is about people who live in shadows. They‘re afraid of the light. There's a whole stratum of life that goes on in the dark. behind closed doors. that people don‘t know about or — if they‘re aware of it — they don‘t want to become knowledgeable about. I wanted to use light very sparingly. I wanted to use religious symbolism. I wanted to use a lot of painted backdrops. It’s all about a visual language that gives the audience an atmosphere. it gives them an attitude.’
The film's star. Adrian Dunbar — who worked with Hayman on television serial A Woman Is Guide To Adultery — agrees that The Near Room transcends the Tarantino style of crime filmmaking. ‘Usually these things sacrifice content for style.‘ says the Irishman. ‘The Near Room gets a balance between the story and the style. one matches the other.
‘There’s a lot of hip violence about. gratuitous stuff with people bleeding to death — so people have had to. by definition. take a back seat and say “Ha. ha. it‘s only a movie. we can‘t get affected.“ People don‘t bother to listen to the story because they think there is no story. there‘s just a lot of wacky dialogue. We could have sat down and done that. I mean. Glasgow‘s full of fucking wacky dialogue. We‘ve actually made a tough. grown-up. emotionally mature film. and that's not the fashion.’
It’s also not the way to go about getting an easy cinema release. The Near Roam was premiered at the Edinburgh Film Festival in 1995 and. although rapturously received at festivals the world over. it struggled to secure a distribution deal in the UK. New company Metrodome has now given the film their full support. however. opening the film on around fifteen screens exclusively in Scotland before it hits London and the rest of the country. It‘s obvious other distributors were wary of handling a film that had touched on drugs and child prostitution. but David Hayman is unrepentant over his handling of such controversial material.
‘I always think drama‘s got a responsibility to reflect society.‘ he argues. ‘Now. you can
reflect society by doing Four Her/dings .»liul A Funeral or you can reflect society by doing The Near Roam. Both of them are equally valid. We can‘t stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the world is all roses. We live in an increasingly violent. unjust. compromised and corrupt world.‘
This isn‘t a film that wraps everything up in pretty ribbons as the titles roll and allows
the audience to go back out into the fresh air
believing all's well that ends well. Hayman and scriptwriter Robert Murphy peel back the cellophane wrapping on the modern world and force tts to confront the sewer flowing underneath. What truly gives the film its
THE NEAR ROOM
David Hayman: 'We live in an increasingly violent, unjust, compromised and corrupt world‘
impact is the recognition factor: the nightmare of The Near l\’(mm isn‘t complete in itself. but something which touches tts each and every day.
‘I go into the newsagents with my kids to buy Tillt’ Dam/y and 7ll(’ lied/In every Wednesday and there are porn mags up there.‘ Hayman. “We accept it. We don‘t say. “Hey. I object It) my kids coming in and see— ing exploitative photo— graphs of women.” We‘re implicit. we have to be implicit. .'\.\
a kid growing tip Ill the housing schemes of
(ilasgow. l was aware of incest and child pornography going on. What do you do‘.’ liither you shtit your eyes to it. pretend it doesn't happen. or you take a stand. If you take a stand. then you're ostracised. It's very difficult. but I don't think we can remove our- selves from it.‘
The (llaswegian setting for the film is also likely to ruffle a few feathers north of the border. Like Shallow (have and Small l'~(((’(’.\’. The Near Room was financed in part by the (llasgow l-ilm l’uud; but unlike those movies. its depiction of violence isn‘t presented at one step removed from real life as a slick.
obviously fictional thriller or a slice of past history.
‘(ilasgow‘s a great metaphor for all the darknesses and evils of the world.‘ says Hayman with a grin on his face. ‘I was born and bred in this city. and I think it has great strengths and great weaknesses. .»\rchitecturally. it‘s a very prottd. gritty. masculine city. unlike lidinburgh which has a much more feminine aspect to it. And just because of the historical perspective of (ilasgow —- which has been “we‘ve poured the steel. we‘ve mined the coal. we've built the ships and made the engines that kept the limpire going for l()() years” it's a hard— working. hard—driuking. hard—playing kind of V”)? 5” Mm :lct excesses of human behaviour in (ilasgow that not a lot of cities in our world have.
'But to be fair to (ilasgow. I use it as an influence. as an inspiration. It‘s not (ilasgow as it actually is. it’s (ilasgow as it can be from a very heightened perspective so that it l‘cctmlcs any city. anyw here.‘
But don't take that as a glimmer of hope. This city is as mean as it gets.
The Near Room goes on general release on Fri 4 Apr. See review and special ticket offer in the Film section.
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