Interview with Noli
You wrote MARRIED/UNMARRIED originally as a stageplay but adapted
it for the screen prior to any production. What made you decide
it was better suited for film?
It’s not that I thought it was better suited but a case
of reaching a wider audience. And even for the screen I wanted
to stay implicitly faithful to the play’s structure – four
equal leads where each character meets every other character
once so that you have these six dialogue-based self-contained
duologues that slowly reveal more about each other relationship.
I thought this would transfer perfectly for screen in the tradition
of the dialogue-based European films I’ve always admired.
Such as…La Maman et la Putain, or
early Godard, Rivette, or seventies Antonioni…
Any English influences?
Not many, not on film. I loved the television of Dennis Potter
and the theatre of Pinter. They could slice you in half with
What about Hitchcock?
What about Hitchcock?
What do you think of Guy Ritchie?
I don’t think of Guy Ritchie.
What led you to want to direct the film?
It was a natural progression. I had always
directed my plays and film was the next step. But no studio is
going to give
you $10m to make your first film because you directed a handful
of your plays in London. So I had to start small. In terms
of budget, you can’t get too much smaller.
What was the budget?
Somewhere between zero and £200,000.
It felt a lot closer to zero most days.
How do you think cinema audiences will react to your work?
I do not write feel-good stories, so the journey an audience
takes is quite demanding. But I have always believed that cinema
is far too important a medium not to provoke thought. I have
no desire to make fleeting time-fillers that dissolve in your
mind the moment you leave an auditorium. I would prefer people
to hate what I do than to have no opinion of it.
I hated this film.
No, I didn’t hate it. Technically it’s excellent
and the performances are very strong. I hated what it was saying
which is why I wanted to interview you. As a woman it was very
difficult to watch.
As a man it was very difficult to make.
Then why did you make it?
Because sometimes we have to confront and
explore and dissect our darker instincts. If we didn’t do that as filmmakers
we’d all end up being Richard Curtis.
Who’s Richard Curtis?
What films or directors have influenced your work?
I’m very much from the school of European Cinema. Rivette,
Antonioni, Tarkovsky, Bunuel, Pasolini…they were my film
education. It wasn’t that I was anti-Hollywood, just that
it did not inspire me in the same way. I’d spend day after
day in repertory cinemas all over London watching the entire
works of these directors, just staring up at the screen like
a blind man who could suddenly see. I remember the first time
I saw ‘Last Tango In Paris’ and the impact it had
on me. I think subconsciously that was the day I decided I wanted
to make films, though it was nearly twenty years before doing
so. I think today someone like Michael Haneke is the same kind
of visionary as Bertolucci was back then. Certainly a film like ‘The
Piano Teacher’ will amaze audiences now as ‘Last
Tango’ did thirty years earlier.
So have films been the greatest influence in your work?
Absolutely. Even as a playwright, my work
is directly influenced by film and perhaps that is why they can
be so freely adapted.
My first play ‘Blue Eyes Red’ is dedicated to John
Cassavettes as it was completely inspired by ‘A Woman
Under The Influence’ Cassavettes remains for me the greatest
voice in American Cinema. One of the next films I’ve
written is called ‘Liquor’ and it has its roots
firmly in ‘The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie’.
MARRIED/UNMARRIED has a very distinctive style and design not
seen in a lot of British films. Did you not want to be a part
of the very successful Cool Brittania?
Cool what? No. I never wanted to make a
Brit-film. Never wanted it to even remotely be identified as
one. I didn’t want
any jerky hand-held or grimy locations which seem to be the norm
for the majority of independent British features. I wanted the
camera locked off for absolutely static images that would suffocate
the viewer, long claustrophobic takes, styled meticulously. I
wanted these four characters to be the only four people in the
world and tried to film them within empty streets and interiors.
One of my actors said during filming that had I made the whole
film on an ugly council estate it would have a better chance
of being heralded because we don’t like modern opulence
in Britain. Maybe that’s why ‘Intimacy’ was
so well praised because as a film it was rubbish.
I liked ‘Intimacy’.
Do you remember a single line from the film?
The misogyny in your film is unbearable at times. What moral
obligation do you have to your audience with such subject matter?
I have absolutely no moral obligation to anybody but myself.
I have to remain true to my characters and if my characters say
the things they say, I have to allow that voice to be heard.
My moral obligation is to prevent the censorship of that. I cannot
and have never perceived an audience whilst writing a single
syllable of my work.
But there will be claims that this is a chauvinistic film.
You believe your film does not give voice to misogyny?
Give voice?… The character of ‘Danny’ is a
misogynist. That does not make the film chauvinistic. Misogyny
is a disease and Ben Daniels’ performance reveals that
all-consuming disease at specific moments when it overwhelms
him. To call this film chauvinistic is the equivalent of calling ‘La
Dolce Vita’ a film about a womaniser. It deserves no riposte.
Are you comparing your film to La Dolce Vita?
No, but after that remark I am beginning to compare you to an
I will ignore that… Do you not feel that there is a dangerous
precedent set in your film that depicts the enjoyment levels
of misogyny to a dangerous degree, possibly on par with the enjoyment
levels of violence in ‘A Clockwork Orange’.
God, where’s the exit? … Why is that dangerous anyway?
Did you want to kick a beggar to death after seeing ‘A
Clockwork Orange’? Did you want to abuse a woman after
seeing Married/Unmarried? That is the character, that is his
psyche. It is a fascinating insight, a dissection of a diseased
mind. It reviles us. And yet the intrigue comes from the tiny
voice within us all that has the capability to do that also.
Most of us have the intellectual awareness to resist that voice.
Some do not. The world is not pretty. We are immersed with rapists
and murderers and paedophiles and thieves. And they all enjoy
what they do. In M/U we witness that enjoyment.
Good answer… Your film examines the principles of whether
we are the victims or willing participants when we are mistreated
by those we love. What advice would you have for women like ‘Kim’ or
men like ‘Paul’?
(sighs) … I wouldn’t even remotely claim to be in
a position to advise anyone. Love can make you irrational, what
else need be said? ‘Kim’ knows she is being mistreated.
She hates the world she is in, but is helplessly unable to escape.
No one can understand that but ‘Kim’ herself. To
us on the outside it seems ridiculous – just get your bags
and go. But emotional ties are unbreakable and stem from history
and fear and denial. We can all look back at our relationships
and identify that we remained with certain partners longer than
we should have. There is no difference. You pick up the paper
on any day and you’ll read about women who have been beaten
and abused by their partners for years and they just stay and
take it. It’s horrifying… With ‘Paul’,
he believed that marriage would curb his infidelity and fights
hard to prove that motive right. He needs that affirmation. If
you want to sleep with many women, nothing will change that,
certainly not marriage.
You speak from experience.
… Are we done?
One more… This is your debut film. In years to come what
do you want people to say about your films?
… If only we listened to him when
he was alive.
Noli politely shakes my hand, smiles, and exits.
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