Would you say that’s helped give the film its unique identity? It’s hard to pin down. People are calling it an action movie, a historical drama, there are even almost surreal elements at times.
YD: You have to be reductive when you try to sell it, and try to coin it. It’s a thriller, but how do you talk about it? Is it an action film? Well, it has action in it, but I’ve turned down so much action, like, I’m not interested in action for action’s sake. I get fatigued, actually. If your in the hands of people that are really interesting like Greengrass or Bigelow, or some people that are just wonderful. Beat Takeshi I used to love. I had to punctuate it well, and it earns its place. But these films that just get bigger, that when they reach their finale, pfft, I’m just exhausted with their setpieces. I just get setpiece fatigue, I’m not interested in that. I wanted everyone to be a human being in this, I wanted to humanize everyone, and for us to experience the film through the eyes of Jack O’Connell’s character, the protagonist, and be horrified, and shocked by the violence as he would be.
Is that what makes Jack’s Hook so unique? He’s not the guy you want to be; you’re in his shoes because you have no idea what to do in his situation.
YD: I think it’s a whole set of things. In this particular performance, [Jack] is transformative. You look at the three things he’s just done, he’s a different character in each one. He’s like the most exciting actor of his generation, I think. He’s got an old school masculinity, he’s not putting it on. He is that old school kind of guy. But it’s not just his machismo and his alpha traits. He’s got a vulnerability he’s comfortable showing, he’s got pain behind his eyes. There are things he’s lived and can draw upon, and he can be quite quiet, and draw you in. You feel intimate with him; you think you know what he’s thinking. He’s a unique talent. He was the only guy that could play this role.
Is there a reason you think ’71 needs to be made in 2014?
YD: Absolutely. It felt pertinent to today, it felt like it could transcend the specificity of The Troubles, and have universality. It’s sad to say, about young boys, losing their lives in conflicts, convoluted, dirty conflicts that no one really understands what’s going on, what the motives are. It’s just a mess. Sectarian violence is taking place right now, there are lots of places you could point to: parts of the Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It’s pertinent to these cycles that keep perpetually going on. I showed this film in Columbia: you’re talking about a 200 year democracy that had over 50 years of civil war, and it’s still not quite over. It was amazing how it resonated there. It was about humanizing everyone, not taking people to school and getting bogged down in the particular details of that conflict, but just making sure you have a human experience of it. It’s about the shades of grey. I thought it was pertinent to today, and that’s why I wanted to make it. It felt immediate to me.
But there is specificity to ’71, like that moment of women in the streets clanging trash can lids to announce the arrival of British forces. How did you go about creating a world that we could recognize as real?
YD: It’s everybody’s input: that particular detail I read about and saw an archive, and I read that detail about how they would let everybody know that soldiers were coming during the period of internment. It was about getting your kids off the street, and I thought, “wow, what a detail.” I’m very lucky, in that I’ve worked with the same editor nine years now, the same DOP nine years, my costumer designer a few years. It was a new experience with the production designer, Chris Oddy, who worked on Under the Skin with Jonathan Glazer. And my DOP, Tat Radcliffe, from Top Boy, and Chris Wyatt, my editor: everyone brings something to it. I created a tone document, and everyone’s invited to contribute. We meet once a week, and we want to know about the details, we work out the details together, we just make sure we keep layering it, and layering it, and eventually it’s not just my ideas, it’s everybody’s ideas. We all work it out together.
What are you hoping the word on ’71 is going to be once people see the film?
YD: I’m just hoping that they’ll tell other people to go and watch it too. I’m hoping people will come out and see the film. It’s very difficult to make an independent film, and now I’m learning that it’s even more harder to get people to come and watch it [laughs].
That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Yann for his time. Be sure to check out ‘71 when it hits theatres this Friday!