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Aoife McArdle • Director

“Music can be such a powerful narrative tool”


- TORONTO 2017: Northern Irish director-scriptwriter Aoife McArdle chatted to us about her debut feature, Kissing Candice, now playing in Toronto’s Discovery section

Aoife McArdle  • Director

Having already collaborated with the likes of U2, Bryan Ferry, Jon Hopkins and James Vincent McMorrow, Northern Irish director-scriptwriter Aoife McArdle has racked up some impressive experience in the world of music videos. Her debut feature, Kissing Candice [+see also:
film review
interview: Aoife McArdle
film profile
, enjoyed its world premiere in the Toronto International Film Festival’s Discovery section, and Cineuropa chatted to her about the fluidity of film genres, the role of dreams and her cinematic influences.

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Cineuropa: Kissing Candice feels like an uncommon coming-of-age romance, blending thriller and crime elements. What was the background to you writing your story, and why did you opt for this edgy topic?
Aoife McArdle: I wanted to write a film inspired by the magnetic people, epic places and dark stories that I’d grown up around in Ireland. I also liked the notion of a film that wasn't confined to one genre, of creating a story that moved fluidly between coming of age, thriller, romance, crime, and even incorporated elements of horror. To me, that slightly anarchic, pulp-like approach suits the unpredictability of the young characters’ thoughts and lives. I also liked the idea of offering an audience with eclectic tastes different routes into a film.

Do you feel as though your characters and your film follow a realistic approach that represents this Irish generation, or is everything fictional?
The story is inspired by real characters and stories, but ultimately, it's fictional and stylised. I think the yearning to escape through fantasy, danger or desire in your teenage years is something real that we can all relate to, though. Overall, we experience this story subjectively through the eyes of Candice, a 17-year-old girl, so it's her vivid, dystopian perception of the world that we’re experiencing, rather than a necessarily truthful one.

Are dreams an escape from a bleak reality or just a caution of the threats that lie ahead?
I think they serve both purposes in the story, offering glimmers of hope when we’re searching for them but also planting the seeds of what's to come.

Narratively, there are moments when the music dominates the story. Also, technically, the choreographed tracking camera follows the heroes. How has your career in music videos affected you?
Making music videos is a great place to learn to be visual and technical, so I’m thankful for that, but it's actually quite a circular thing because in all of my music videos, I’ve been influenced by films. I spent my teenage years watching as many films from all over the world as I could. I use choreographed tracking camera a lot because I think cinematography should be as immersive as possible, sweeping the viewer up in the character's world. I have vivid memories of experiencing Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil or Max Ophüls’ or Stanley Kubrick’s work for the first time and being so captivated by the magic of tracking shots. Similarly, I’ve always approached the music in my videos as if it were a film score. Music can be such a powerful narrative tool in a film. Sometimes it’s underused or unnecessary, but I love the way it can be employed to highlight layers of meaning, atmosphere or emotion, or to subvert the tone of a scene. It was such a rewarding process working with the gifted composer I had on Kissing Candice and being able to craft the film this way around for a change.

Is it easy for a first-time director to shoot on location and produce a film in Ireland?
I don’t think it’s easy for a first-time director to shoot anywhere. It’s a huge undertaking, especially when it’s a low-budget film like ours was. It takes passion, determination and resilience, and you have to draw upon all the favours and creative resources you have to see it through. The weather is also pretty harsh and unpredictable in Ireland, so that adds to your labour. A lot of time was spent getting drenched or waiting for tiny windows of good light. I did love having the opportunity to film so close to where I'd grown up, though. Ireland is such an inspiring, unspoilt place with so much hidden beauty. That’s a gift for any filmmaker.

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