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Interview: Andrea Arnold • Director

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"A passion for the real"


- UK director analysed her realist approach at the press conference after the screening of her second feature, in competition at the Cannes Film Festival

Interview: Andrea  Arnold  • Director

UK director Andrea Arnold analysed her realist approach at the press conference after the screening of her second feature, Fish Tank [+see also:
film review
film focus
interview: Andrea Arnold
film profile
, in competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival.

What led you to make the realist film Fish Tank?
Andrea Arnold: When I write, I draw inspiration from an initial image, which I’m not going to reveal here. What’s interesting about the writing process is the unconscious side, what rises to the surface without us understanding why. I then try to bring the characters to life, without thinking about other films or references. I’ve made a few documentaries and I have a passion for the real and the method for filming it.

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I was looking for a young girl halfway between childhood and adulthood. It was difficult: many 17-18-year-old girls are already adults. When you watch the film, Katie Jarvis looks younger and more fragile than she seems in real life. I became aware of this youthfulness on screen during the first editing phase and it’s even more striking than I imagined.

How did you discover non-professional actress Katie Jarvis?
In a train station, after spending a long time looking for someone through castings. And there, we saw Katie who was telling off her boyfriend. She could hardly believe that we wanted her to do an audition. Then, during the audition, she wouldn’t dance, unless she was alone in a corner. This was totally unlike the character I had in mind. But when she started dancing, even if it wasn’t really hip-hop, interestingly she was herself. She also radiates a kind of dynamism.

You show great sensitivity with regard to women’s reactions to music and dance.
Dancing is a very effective way to relieve tension. In the film, the actresses are always trying to protect themselves and they do this by immersing themselves in dance. That’s when they are themselves. In the screenplay, dance was very important and we auditioned lots of young girls who danced to R&B in a rather lustful and seductive way. But for hip-hop, we realised that the important aspect was dancing for someone else and we understood that we had to position the film in this way.

Why did you choose to shoot the film in Essex, a region rarely seen on screen?
I adore the wildness of the landscape. I went to Essex when I was a child, on the A13 road between London and the North Sea. All those housing estates look like small islands in the middle of a natural wilderness. There are factories, deserted car parks, a very melancholy atmosphere.

Why did you choose the title Fish Tank?
People want a title very quickly for the press packs but I need to get a feel for the film first. There’s lots of life in this little fish tank, in the small area shown in the film and Fish Tank is a good metaphor for it.


international title: Fish Tank
original title: Fish Tank
country: United Kingdom, Netherlands
sales agent: Content International
year: 2009
directed by: Andrea Arnold
screenplay: Andrea Arnold
cast: Michael Fassbender, Katie Jarvis, Kierston Wareing, Rebecca Griffiths, Harry Treadaway

main awards/selection

Cannes 2009 Official Selection
Jury Prize

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