|The Film||Director||Credits||Cast||Press Quotes||Images||Trailer|
JOANNA HOGG Director & ScreenwriterJoanna Hogg started her career as a photographer before becoming interested in the moving image. She attended film school in the UK and, after several short films, became
a prolific director of television drama. She used this as a testing ground for developing her aesthetic as a filmmaker, and in particular working with actors to obtain performances of authenticity and depth.
She continually pushed the boundaries of what was possible in established television series. Her debut feature film Unrelated (2007) won critical acclaim and many awards, including the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Award at London Film Festival 2007, The Guardian First Film Award in 2008 and The Evening Standard Most Promising Newcomer award in 2009.
Her second feature film is ARCHIPELAGO (2010). She is currently writing her third feature, a contemporary story set in London, which completes the trilogy.
Selected Filmography2010 - ARCHIPELAGODVD
2007 - UNRELATED
What inspired you to make the film?
- It’s a challenge to describe simply the original inspiration for this film. There was no one single image or idea that sparked the project. Instead a number of different channels opened up to me while I was searching for a new story. One of those channels was observing my painting teacher over a period of a couple of years. Christopher (Baker)’s teaching has always inspired me and I realised that much of what he was talking about related to my approach to filmmaking. Also teaching is a kind of performance and I began to see him in a new light. The next logical step was to actually place him within a story, and explore those ideas further within the context of the family. Painting inspires me more and more in terms of developing my ideas. It’s a place I can just go and be away from the chaos of life, exactly as Christopher describes in the film, about being on the island to Patricia.
Another inspiration was reading Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and thinking about a character who is the embodiment of goodness. I began to think about what it’s like to be a 28-year old young man, the pressures of being a man. I was inspired by an interview that Paul Schrader had with Robert Bresson in 1977 for Film Comment. Bresson talked about a character who becomes disgusted with life and living only for money.
This is what Edward feels about giving up his job in the city and going to Africa to do volunteer work.
The influences that help ignite a project in my imagination become harder to detect in the finished film. Yet they are a crucial, creative marker that help form the ideas before they are digested. Woven into the fabric of the film, they then become their own unique thing. However, what helped was that the genesis of the story took place in my imagination. This allowed me to plumb depths that I hadn’t been able to with Unrelated.
It set me free in a way.
Can you describe the process of creating the film?
- Maybe because I have come to filmmaking later in life, I can do what Francis Bacon said, which was 'throw paint on the canvas and see what happens'. Keeping the work open and allowing each part of the process to be creative. I’m not just executing a plan I made earlier. The writing I do is not conventional screenwriting. I have endless notebooks on the go and rather than translate these into a neat screenplay, which would kill my ideas stone dead, they get poured straight into the film as it is being made. This is via a document that reads more like a piece of prose or fiction, illustrated by photographs I have taken. It’s a form of action painting. All my references are connected to painting at the moment!
I created ARCHIPELAGO in a slightly different way from Unrelated. Despite not writing a conventional script, the result is maybe more austere and controlled. On an emotional level it went deeper and is possibly more complex.
Francis Bacon said 'I want a very ordered image but I want it to come about by chance'. This sums up what I was trying to achieve.
Is the film autobiographical?
- I would say it is less autobiographical than Unrelated but more personal. Facts don’t necessarily lead to truth. I was ambivalent around whether I had the right to portray people close to me, and in the end I decided to base all the characters around myself so I wouldn’t hurt anyone. What I feel I’ve ended up with
is a rather unflattering self portrait, in which I’ve created a kind of internal family that bears no relation to my family of origin. Whilst escaping from what felt too close for comfort, I actually threw myself headlong into something infinitely more personal. This took me into deeper and darker territory and gave me more freedom to follow my instincts.
How was it working with Tom Hiddleston again? How do you see Edward as a character?
- I had a conversation with Tom, early on when I was first thinking about the character of Edward, and we were talking about how a sense of oneself can so easily vanish in the family fold: the struggle to hold onto oneself and what does personal freedom actually mean. This was a crucial question I asked myself, in the early stages of conception. The shackle of keeping everyone happy and chasing the holy grail of feeling free.
I was interested in Tom playing somebody good who believes they are essentially bad. Edward carries the guilt of his parents on his shoulders. I love that Edward is so polar opposite to Oakley, the character Tom played in Unrelated. It is a credit to Tom’s skill as an actor that he can get so completely beneath the skin of such different animals as these.
How did you approach the rest of the casting?
- For the role of Rose, I wanted to find a professional cook. I contacted a cooking agency and we interviewed about twenty-five cooks before meeting Amy Lloyd. She had never appeared in a film before and playing Rose turned out to be her first professional job for the cooking agency.
Christopher, as I have already mentioned, was already there. What’s more he was completely willing to commit himself to making a film. This gave me the confidence that I was making a good decision, and I never thought it necessary to screen test him. I love this aspect of filmmaking, where you take an ingredient and throw it like paint onto the canvas. It was important that both the non-actors were able react to the story in the moment. I gave them no plan of what we were to be shooting from day to day. I didn’t want them to have time to anticipate things, and therefore get nervous. Both were extraordinary in their abilities to be natural on the screen. All they knew was the setting and their relationship to the family.
Whilst I cast non-professionals for the characters of Rose and Christopher, for the family I wanted to cast actors. I love the chemistry between the two approaches, and I wanted to delineate further, the separation between the insiders and the outsiders.
Why did you choose this location?
- Location to me is much more than just a place to film. It is part of the essential fabric of the story.
This island fascinates me because it has a dreamlike quality due to a kind of condensation of the landscape. There are quasi-surreal juxtapositions which I haven’t seen anywhere else. On the one hand, in the northern part of the island, you have wild moor land such as you would find in the highlands of Scotland and on the other, a lush tropical landscape that’s more characteristic of Cornwall. So it almost represents a miniature United Kingdom.
Why do you use so few close-ups?
- I think holding a wide frame for a certain duration, can create conversely a feeling of intimacy. I like to give the viewer a chance to explore the frame and become intimate with it. A close-up doesn’t necessarily mean intimacy.
You have again decided not to use incidental music. Can you describe your approach to sound?
- There are many ways a film can be musical, without having an actual score. I love listening to birdsong and I wanted to explore the idea of birdsong and communication. When the Leighton family are not talking to each other, birds can be heard chattering outside. I also wanted the sound to be recorded up close, while the camera keeps a distance, again to give a greater feeling of intimacy.
What does the title Archipelago mean in the context of your film? What is it about the theme of the family that inspires you?
- The title relates to the family as a group of islands, linked together beneath the surface. What often links a family together goes unspoken and unacknowledged. Families are a way of protecting individuals from what they need to hear and often they have techniques for avoiding the real issues. The Leighton family in ARCHIPELAGO are such a family! Their most dangerous trait is summed up by the missing picture on the wall. Ignoring or denying ones shadow is far worse than confronting and embracing it. If you push something disturbing out of sight, it only reappears to haunt in other ways.