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Interview: Lynne Ramsay • Director

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"Responsibility and guilt"


- Family, maternal instinct, education, guilt and the roots of violence. The Scottish director offers a few clues to We Need to Talk About Kevin

Interview: Lynne Ramsay • Director

Flanked by her exceptional leading actress Tilda Swinton, Scottish director Lynne Ramsay presented to the press her decidedly well-made third feature film, We Need to Talk About Kevin, screened in competition at the 64th Cannes Film Festival.

Why did you want to adapt a novel and tell the story of relationships that leads to a drama, a massacre?
Lynne Ramsay: Families are very complicated. This is what I liked about Lionel Shriver’s novel. And even though there’s no reference to it in the script, my brother and my mother had a very difficult relationship. I would see that even though my brother was terrible to my mother, she would try not to react with violence. I too have a son and I asked myself the same questions the film poses, about responsibility and guilt.

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The novel deals with Eva’s many ambivalent feelings about motherhood. Why does this play a small role in the film?
I wanted the viewer to interpret the character. I didn’t want her to be black and white, a good mother or a bad mother. There are various shades of gray. It’s a kind of journey with Eva in which we study her emotions and feelings. The novel is really dense and a lot of things didn’t make it into the film, which is nonetheless inspired solely by the book.

Why did you choose not to show the final killing?
Above all because we didn’t have enough money to shoot that kind of scene. We needed to maintain the point of view of the mother, who hasn’t seen what happened at school, who can only imagine it and dreams it in endless nightmares. It’s not only her son who killed those people, but she as well in a way, she through him. You have to be careful when you’re filming, you have to be smart about it in order to respect the point of view.

Society condemns a mother for the actions of her son.
The film isn’t a study of society, but as far as I know, when a son turns out to be very violent, the cause is thought to be his mother.

Is Kevin’s violence a metaphor for today’s violence?
Kevin lives in a middle-class American family and has everything he could want. The family doesn’t have any real problems and he’s a bit too spoiled. They raise him like that until he rebels against society. He carries within him a violence comparable to the brutality in the world that we don’t want to face.

Can you talk a little about the film’s aesthetics and great visual intensity?
I first picture a film in my head, in a very visual way. That’s how I work. I could already see my main character, Eva, and chose those things that could attract her. Which made it a great challenge structurally speaking. It was my first time creating a story in this way: I wanted to tell a very personal story. In any case, I didn’t want to show anything exaggeratedly violent. We only see what happens before and after.


international title: We Need to Talk about Kevin
original title: We Need to Talk about Kevin
country: United Kingdom
sales agent: Independent Film Company
year: 2011
directed by: Lynne Ramsay
screenplay: Lynne Ramsay
cast: Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly, Ezra Miller

main awards/selection

Cannes 2011 In Competition
Paris Cinéma 2011 
Telluride Film Festival 2011 
Toronto International Film Festival 2011 
Reykjavik Film Festival 2011 
Athens Film Festival 2011 
Fantastic Fest USA 2011 
Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival 2011 
Pusan International Film Festival 2011 
Gent International Film Festival 2011 
Mill Valley Film Festival 2011 
Hamptons International Film Festival 2011 
Morelia International Film Festival 2011 
Abu Dhabi International Film Festival 2011 
Chicago International Film Festival 2011 
BFI London Film Festival 2011 
Tallgrass Film Festival USA 2011 
Ljubljana International Film Festival 2011 
St. Louis International Film Festival 2011 
Plus Camerimage International Film Festival 2011 
New York City, New York 2011 
Göteborg International Film Festival 2012 

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