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11. 10. 2013

Grand Prix winner Broken entered Czech cinemas

Broken

2013 Grand Prix winner, powerful drama BROKEN by Rufus Norris, had its premiere on October.

Broken is a strong, captivating and moving study of love in its many forms - idealized, unrequited, unwanted, and - ultimately - unconditional. The best British Independent Film of 2012 contains typically insular uncompromising social notes, magical elements, a fascinating children's main character, a number of top-flight adult actors (Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy, Rory Kinnear), impressive cinematography and irreplaceable music by Damon Albarn (ex-leader of Blur). Broken deals with crumbling structures, in whose own structure  also dwells only one element.

The film will be brought to our cinemas by Association of Czech Film Clubs (AČFK).

An interview with director Rufus Norris

You’re a celebrated theatre and opera director; what kind of artistic satisfaction do you find in cinema?

It’s a completely different medium, though of course it’s all story telling… The control of detail is exciting, whether through use of close-ups, or in the edit, or with music. There is also something about the accidental or unexpected moments that make stories interesting, and one of the joys of film is that if an accident happens, you have it  forever.  In  theatre  the  construction  requires  actors  to  recreate  moments  every  night, sometimes for months; there is something very liberating about having only to catch it once.

What drew you to this story?

What drew me most to this beautiful and incredibly moving story was a two-fold challenge: to capture the essence of this open, vital child whilst having compassion for all the adults who in their separate ways manage to fail her; and to draw an unsentimental and total celebration of life from a seemingly tragic place.

Is it hard for a theatre director to think cinematically?

I imagine that depends on the theatre director. I have always thought visually and musically, so that has felt natural; I have also sought out projects that are fresh and take me to places I have not been before, to make myself scared almost, and in that way the new challenge has been very welcome.

What did you learn from this first experience?

To  take  time  in  every  area  of  preparation,  and  then  let  it  all  go  to  respond  to  what  is happening in the moment once the shooting starts; to trust myself and those around me in equal measure. To be decisive at all times - it seems the worst crime when shooting starts is to slow things down with prevarication.

It’s often said that a first film is either about what you know or things that trouble you, or compel you. Why did you decide to bring Daniel Clay’s novel “Broken” to the screen? How did you turn it into a very personal work?

I’m a father of children more or less the same age as Skunk, and I have always been a slightly offbeat optimist, like she is, so submerging myself in them was natural. I have a strong dislike of two-dimensional representation of anything, particularly ‘bad’ people, so  was  very  drawn  by  the  opportunity  of  showing  a  very  dysfunctional  neighborhood without being simplistic about any of the characters. The themes of love, responsibility, parenting  and  how  to  co-exist  with  others  are  very  current,  and  very  close  to  my  life; in practice, that just meant trying to find ways of telling every aspect of the story that felt true to me.

In  this  compelling  drama,  tenderness  is  beautifully  juxtaposed  with  appalling brutality. How did you preserve the empathy and sensitivity of your characters?

Firstly, by working with excellent actors. But in life, everyone’s actions are justified if you stand in their shoes, and a great appeal of the story was to stand in the shoes of some very different people, who are often perpetrating very unsocial behavior. I do not condone terrible behavior, but neither do I have time for the easy demonization that contemporary society is very quick to hand out; compassion is not weak, it’s what makes us human and is an essential tool for three-dimensional storytelling.

This ensemble drama is a stunning showcase for actors and relies heavily on their skills. A word about Tim Roth?

Tim is very experienced and extremely astute. He doesn’t suffer fools, but fortunately I’m not one, and I realized very quickly that he would have a lot of wisdom beyond the character he was playing. He was absolutely fantastic with Eloise from the word go, and her ease and relaxed truth are largely down to his open arms. His performance is beautiful, and speaks for itself.

Cillian Murphy?

There isn’t a single frame that we shot of Cillian that we could not use. He has no ego in the workplace beyond what is necessary to do the job well, and his sense of humor is a total delight. He is a dream to work with.

Newcomer Eloise Laurence?

We saw 850 girls for this role and El came in right at the end, thank god. Working with her was about the easiest experience I have had with an actor. No special techniques or considerations were necessary; she just came in with energy and complete enthusiasm every day. She never once complained, except that it was ending too soon. I thought the greatest challenge would be to keep her natural, to stop her ‘acting’, and I never gave that note once. You worry, of course, that you are in some way corrupting a child who could be spoilt by the experience, the attention. Fortunately, both for her and us, her parents are both totally grounded and I think if anyone can get through it, it is she. She is very musical, and I think it helped that she hasn’t acted before, and had no great desire to do anything other than sing.

In a world governed by anger and fear... The book and your film raise the question: “Is this a good way to be living?”

Certainly our society and modern life put us under pressures that have nothing to do with contentment or happiness. Own this, be like this, compete, control your life, etc. For me there is no great answer, no brilliant philosophy, other than to be aware of your own patterns and try to be responsible with regard to others. It’s nothing new, and most stories are moral in one way or another, but hopefully this story encourages understanding in some small way.

The movie probes what makes people break down and explores the kindness and love that might heal and restore. Do you see it as a meditation on innocence? Can it exist in this environment?

This  environment  is  essentially  the  same  environment  that  people  have  lived  in  for thousands of years, with a few variations. Most of us respond to love, want to be loved, so I think it is a meditation on that, in its several forms. Requited and unrequited, infatuated, romantic and platonic, and finally unconditional, which is perhaps the only trustworthy form. Certainly innocence plays a large part in it - in many ways it can be seen as a loss-of- innocence story, for many of the characters. It is also a meditation on the impossible art of responsible parenting! They all get it wrong, and they all pay the price. Sometimes love is not enough.

British social realism stretches back to the 50s, through the legendary Alan Clarke’s 1982 MADE IN ENGLAND and Ken Loach, Mike Leigh... Both Peter Mullan, who stars in your short film “King Bastard”, and Tim Roth who stars in BROKEN, have directed autobiographical films (NEDS and THE WAR ZONE respectively). It seems that this semi-dormant indie tradition has sprung to life with newfound vigor and confidence (Shane Meadows, John Crowley, Paddy Considine). Are you pursuing the same full-throated assault on British society? Do you feel close to this British trend?

I admire those filmmakers enormously, and certainly this story touches on some of those themes, so in that sense, yes. I didn’t grow up in Britain, or even Europe, and the areas that I’m interested in would probably apply to anywhere… but inevitably those areas will be framed by where I live, which is here. There are many aspects of British life and governance that I find intensely frustrating, but at the same time I love this Island and its peculiar ways. I hope my work in whatever medium lays bare the inadequacies of our society whilst celebrating our spirit.

Is there a film you particularly admire?

FESTEN by Thomas Vinterberg. Beautiful story, beautifully told. All the effects in Hollywood could never get close.

The script is by Mark O’Rowe, also credited for his work with John Crowley on BOY A (adapted from Jonathan Trigell’s novel). Since adapting is betraying, how did you work with him?

Well now… if BROKEN is an adaptation of the book, which is an adaptation of sorts of “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which in itself owes much to Carson McCullers… where do you stop? Shakespeare never wrote an original story, he just wrote old ones in a new way as best he could. We will not reach his excellence, but we can try! I worked with Mark the same way I try to work with everyone - rigorously, respectfully, bravely, and in a way I hope empowers; he knows far more than me about writing and film so I have a huge amount to learn, but I also have clear instincts and I know to follow them. We were thorough, were not afraid to disagree about the small things, and consequently ended up always agreeing about the big ones.

Your DP Rob Hardy, who also worked on BOY A and “1974” from THE RED RIDING TRILOGY, has a very distinctive signature. What were the significant visual choices of your film?

We looked at various photographers, watched a few films together and had many frames of reference, but in the end these were not so important. What was important, every day, was to consider every shot, every environment, and see what we could get from it, how we could frame this story in a way that felt deliberate, balanced in tone and tension, without losing touch with the story. Our aim, in a simple sense, was to let the content guide the form. This is a small story with a very big heart, and that required a subtlety and care that Rob is a master of.

The film has original music by Damon Albarn, with whom you worked on your 2011 creation of the opera DOCTOR DEE for the Manchester International Festival. How did you collaborate? At what point of the production did he start to compose?

Damon is part of a group, the Electric Wave Bureau, and I worked with them all on BROKEN; I’ve  worked  with  Damon  and  Mike  Smith  before  and  that  was  very  useful  in  terms  of establishing a working language very quickly. All four members of EWB have children the same age as Skunk, so we were like a creatively concerned parents’ collective, working out how to tell this story of our worst fears through music. Music was my way into the arts so it’s a very important and vibrant area for me, and I’m hugely fortunate that EWB came on board to bring a very distinctive sound to it.

I haven’t made any other films, but it seems that many composers of film music have to work round everyone else and be almost invisible. That is not possible or appropriate with EWB, and I wanted them to express themselves like everyone else - they totally got the story and responded to it immediately. The fact that Eloise sings was hugely important. She got on with the team very well and it immediately gave everyone a clear way into it. It’s rare for the central character to also be at the heart of the soundtrack, and has been a key part of the whole experience, linking it all together somehow.

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