THE HOUSE OF MIRTH
Terence Davies shooting Gillian Anderson in Glasgow in The House Of Mirth and (inset) Giles Havergal, artistic director the Citizens’ Theatre since 1969
adaptations. particularly with the female characters. is that they play it as modern women. And you think. ‘this is not Jane Austen. they didn't behave like that in 1815. they would never have dared to. Not even Elizabeth Bennett. The attitude is all wrong.‘ There‘s a point where even she thinks. ‘l‘ve got to toe the line because otherwise I‘ll end up a spinster.‘
GH: Absolutely. On the other hand. do you not think that we. as adapters. are bringing our modern perception to what we do‘.’ The change doesn‘t have to be in how it’s played. We have done what interests us about it. which will inevitably reflect our own times.
TD: Yes. but at the same time you have to keep things like the formality of the language. because it's of such crucial importance. It's like a very. very elaborate dance. For instance. one of the tragedies with Lawrence and Lily. is that they're so exquisitely attuned to nuance that they always get it wrong. For instance. when
Lawrence and Lily are in the park and she says. ‘Do you want to marry me'." And he says. ‘No. I don't want to — but perhaps I should if you did!‘ What on earth does that mean‘.’ If you try to make that modern. all that nuance goes and it just becomes a mere question of. 'I)o you want to fuck me or not'." And it‘s not that. it‘s really not that. Earlier. in Lawrence's room at the Benedick. l.in says: "l‘here are men who don‘t like me and there are others who are afraid of me — they think I want to marry them. But I don‘t think you dislike me. and you can‘t possibly think I want to marry you.‘ And he says. ‘No. l absolve you of that‘. In that sequence. all the rules are set up for them to get it wrong repeatedly. And if you take out the formality. it‘s wrong. isn't it'.’
GH: You had (iillian Anderson. from The X—l’ilos. as Lily. I cast a very beautiful Persian-American actress I had worked with before. Roxanne Raja. She was the kind of person who makes people turn their heads in the
'I wanted Lily to look like a John Singer Sergeant portrait, and Gillian Anderson has that kind of
face.’ Terence Davies
street. as they presumably do with (iillian Anderson. You needed that allure. that ltnninotis quality. Also. she could be very funny. which was perfect for the ironies. It gave her a kind of hauteur. too.
TD: I wanted Lily to look like a John Singer Sergeant portrait. and Gillian has that kind of face: long and not always necessarily beautiful. But that helps. because you also see a kind of vulnerability. At the end of the scene on the yacht. when the tables are turned on Lily. she doesn‘t look beautiful. she jtlsl looks frightened. GH: Is it true that you had never seen (iillian Anderson in The X—l'Y/vs'.’
TD: Yes. I don’t like anything about the paranormal. I only think the Inland Revenue is paranormal.
The House Of Mirth plays at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Sat 19 Aug (Odeon) and Thu 24 Aug (Cameo) and goes on general release from 13 Oct.
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