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In The Cut - Jane Campion Q&A



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. Tell us about how you came into contact with the novel and how it made an impact upon you?
A.
I read the novel in 1996 and it wasn't, by any means, a way of looking for material to make a film. It was just someone saying to me, 'you've got to read this pretty amazing book'.
I was like, 'where can I get a copy? Can I borrow yours?' And that's really what happened. I got a copy and read it in one sitting. I was really taken with the story and loved the style of Suzanna. It was really special to me, because this character felt like someone I'd know, and that she should come up against this world of detectives that were very authentically drawn, with the kind of language they used, and how crude they were at times, and yet how brutally honest, which, in a weird way, is attractive, was really interesting. That was what I was really attracted to, initially.
I also had this thought that the actual structure and machinations of the story were really good, because I really didn't know what was going to happen.

Q. I found the depiction of modern women very interesting. Was that another part of its allure? And did it give you the opportunity to explore such themes?
A.
Yes, I do think the story gave us the opportunity to explore some of the situations for women today, who are dealing with both their independence, and also the fact that their lives are built around finding and satisfying the romantic models that we grew up with. Like being independent, and self-sufficient, yet finding love in a man, or a relationship with a man, and I think this gave us the opportunity to see how that model falls short for us. It creates an enormous amount of grief, and how women postpone their lives, in a way, sometimes thinking that if they're not with a partner, they're an unloved person, or an unloved woman; they're still searching for their prince in a way.
As much as we don't discuss that concept, I think it really does exist, and doesn't help anybody.

Q. You were very courageous in the way that you never let the camera be pulled away from all the violence, which is really important to the feeling of the story, so I wondered what your thoughts were on that. Whether you wanted to make sure that this degree of violence appeared on the screen, which is probably much more potent than the sexual element of the story?
A.
There isn't really any onscreen violence. That's something I find quite difficult. In fact, even the stunt when Meg's character gets hit by the taxi, I was in a torment, asking myself 'what the hell was I doing, someone could really get hurt!' Do we really need this? Let's not do it, you know?
There was even a moment when she [the stunt-woman] was lying down there, waiting for me to say 'cut', when I thought she was dead.
So, violence actually has no attraction for me, at all. It's more the consequence of it.
It wasn't very hard to toss blood around. But it's a genre, a tradition; it's the sort of way you sort of make your mark on it, as a contribution to the genre. In fact, all the on-screen violence is in a sort of Charlie Chaplin-esque way in the skating sequence, which I guess is pretty violent, but it's not really happened, it's not real, we know it's sort of an unconscious scene putting strange elements together.
For the messiest scene, the crime scene, we had a true forensic expert there, and I had some corny ideas about what they might do, and he said that he could do that, but that's not how they would really do it.
So, I said, ok, you show me what you would do with this crime scene, so we just set up the scene with the body parts, and he really did do what he would do, and used his own dialogue for the whole scene.
I loved that so much, because, for me, it's always fantastic to watch such a thing. I never would have imagined anything as dry, or as matter of fact.
I felt this was really a fresh version of a crime scene.

Q. The thing that stayed with me while watching the movie was the sense of dread that something was going to happen. How easy was that to create? And is it true that on a dark movie, such as this, the set was happier than on a comedy, for instance, where the mood might be darker?
Ryan:
Taking the last question first, the gloomy happy thing, I don't think that's true, but we had a really happy set.
JC: Certainly the days when we had to do the grislier stuff, there was a lot of dark humour. As for the sense of dread, it was a concern for me, because, again, it is one of the requirements of the genre, I think, to get right. One of the limits that we put on ourselves, in terms of style of performance, was that there would be no indicating, because I just felt exhausted by indicating acting, you know? I made the rule and stuck to it very firmly.

Q. Is it true that the original backers pulled out because of the content? And how did it make you feel?
A.
I did make the mistake of teasing my backers with the thought of a Se7en, but it did become clear that it wasn't really like Se7en. They were set on something different, which maybe I had helped to establish in their mind, and I didn't want to back off what we were moving towards.
For me, the genre was of no value to me, unless it was working for me, rather than me working for it.
I wanted to do a relationship-based story, and I did.

Q. Did that mean a tighter budget?
A.
Yes, it did, and in a way, I was kind of thrilled. It did create a whole chain of reaction that I think helped us immensely, and meant that we had to find a way to shoot it cheaply, so we went for 100% New York City; we had to reduce our budget. But we wanted to do that, because we felt that it would make us create circumstances that were more 'streety', and gritty. Also, it would have less stress, your expectations were normal.

Q. I found it quite a cold film, was that something you strived to achieve?
A.
I think you have to go with your own feeling on it, and so I don't want to change yours. I do honour everyone's response, but for me, I think, in a way, while the surface is cold, what's going on underneath, where everyone is searching to satisfy their desire, they are looking for a way into a real relationship from a place you would doubt is there. I think it's a film with grief around it, and I think that the whole point of grief is that it comes to people with heart. There is a lot of affection and love between the sisters, or half-sisters, and even between the detective. There was also a lot of love in the way we filmed it, the attention to them.

Q. What I thought was a really lovely moment in the film is when Jennifer Jason Leigh's character asks Meg's character if she was happy when she woke up? Are you happy when you wake up?
A.
When I was writing the story, no I wasn't. I thought 'fuck', you know? I felt like why am I not fucking happy, you know? I have to work my way there. What's going on?

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