Fables Of The Reconstruction
After digging deep into the North American psyche in Exotica and The Sweet Hereafter, ATOM EGOYAN comes to England for Felicia’s Journey.
Words: Alan Morrison
Sometimes the Oscars get it right, even if only at the nominations stage. While 1998 will go down as the year of Titanic, the history books will also note a small triumph for the Canadian film industry and for those whose tastes lean towards for quality ‘arthouse’ cinema. Atom Egoyan’s two nominations — Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay for The Sweet Hereafter — surprised just about everyone, including Egoyan himself.
‘The Oscars were a miracle, a bit of a fluke really,’ he says, looking back from the comfort of Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel. ‘There was no indication that was going to happen, because we were completely ignored during the early award season and Atom Egoyan the film was only a modest success commercially. There’s nothing I can say that can express the complete unlikelihood and shock of receiving two nominations. I was just ﬂabbergasted.’
It’s unusual to ﬁnd Egoyan lost for words. When discussing his work, he offers detailed but uncluttered explanations of theories and individual shots, tempering his intelligence with splashes of humour. When writing for the screen, there’s no one better at condensing the characters’ entire life histories into a few tense lines of dialogue. His latest project, based on William Trevor’s Whitbread Prize- winning novel Felicia’s Journey, takes the director away from familiar territory and into the industrial heartlands around Birmingham. As a filmmaker
18 THE U81 7-21 Oct 1999
‘I'm interested in perversion.’
ing: Atom Egoyan filming Felicia's Journey
whose early original screenplays — which include The Adjuster and Exotica — reveal a unique vision and style, isn’t he concerned about offering up two book adaptations in a row?
‘It wasn’t something I’d planned to do at all,’ he admits, ‘but I was just so struck by the possibilities of being able to concentrate on two characters who are living in their own little period piece. After the structural ambitions of The Sweet Hereafter, in which I tried to create the psyche of a community for a lot of the film, I wanted to take the opportunity to concentrate on just two people.’
In the new film, Irish teenager Felicia comes over to the Midlands to look for the father of her unborn child. During her search she meets factory catering manager Mr Hilditch, whose pleasantly helpful demeanour hides a grotesque obsession with his dead mother — a once-famous TV cook — and an even more suspicious predisposition towards lonely young women.
Egoyan readily admits that his version gives more emphasis to the Hilditch character, played by Bob Hoskins, than Trevor does in the book. ‘We think we’ve figured Hilditch out, but when the camera goes into his face, we realise we don’t know him at all,’ the director says. ‘There’s something of the everyman in Bob, and I was hoping to really explore that. Bob is so emotionally accessible.
‘But what Trevor does so beautifully is concentrate on passages where nothing is happening. He’s just able to give an urgency to things you wouldn’t think twice about. I need something a bit more perverse, I suppose; I’m interested in perversion and the way people find rituals and find means of restoring their neuroses at a tangible level, then wallow in it a little bit. These are the things that really interest me because they point to the things that have to be demolished and broken down and reconstructed in order to let you find truth.’
Felicia's Journey opens on Fri 8 Oct. See review, page 22. Formulas For Seduction: The Cinema Of Atom Egoyan at the Edinburgh Filmhouse on Sun 17 Oct.
Lights, camera, action. . .
NEW GERMAN CINEMA is taking Scotland by storm. The Glasgow Film Theatre, Edinburgh's Filmhouse and Dundee Contemporary Arts Cinema are all hosting seasons of recent German films, no doubt tying in with the international success (even in subtitle-proof America) of Thomas Twyker's Run Lola Run, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival last August. The GFT's 5th German Film Festival runs 14—21 October and features another highly recommended Film Festival premiere (from 1998), Trains And Roses. The Filmhouse season runs 15-24 October, as does Contemporary Arts, the latter including Twyker’s previous film, Winter Sleepers. For full programme details see Film index or contact individual cinemas: GFT, 0141 332 8128; Filmhouse, 0131 228 2688; Contemporary Arts, 01382 432 000. FILMFOUR LAB, THE low budget filmmaking initiative launched during the Edinburgh International Film Festival, has announced its first feature project, Bernard Rudden‘s Daybreak. Rudden, whose credits include the award-winning short film Hunger Artist, is currently filming the drama set in Edinburgh's clubbing scene on locations around the capital and elsewhere in Scotland. Daybreak is being shot on digital video in accordance with the initiative’s aim to fuse innovations in the production process with new cinematic talent. FOUR SCOTTISH FILM and television production companies have been awarded £175,000 worth of development finance under the Producers Preparation Scheme. The joint initiative between the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund,
Scottish Screen and Scottish Enterprise
was set up in 1997 with a mandate to support the development of projects with particular relevance to Scotland. The companies to receive the awards are Antonine Films (£50,000), Makar Productions (£50,000), Gabriel Films (£48,000) and Skyline Productions (£25,000).
EDINBURGH FILM FOCUS is the new name for The Edinburgh 8 Lothian Screen Industries Office. For free advice on all aspects of filmmaking contact the organisation on 0131 622 7337.
New German cinema: Run Lola Run