"The point is not to make people laugh or cry"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Realist comedy, whisky, and the working class. The English filmmaker talks about making The Angels' Share.
At the 65th Cannes Film Festival, English film director Ken Loach spoke to the international press about his social comedy The Angels' Share (review), for which he was awarded the festival's Jury Prize. Here are choice snippets.
Does whisky play the same role in The Angels' Share [+see also:
interview: Ken Loach
film profile] as the falcon does in Kes (1970)? Is it a metaphor?
Ken Loach: It's actually thanks to whisky that we discover Robbie's talent, just as when we saw Billy Casper working with the bird in Kes. The big difference is Billy Casper in Kes was in the 1960s and he had a job. Robbie in 2012, he doesn't have a job. It's a mark of how far we've gone back. But his talent for whisky is a way of observing this boy's energy and determination. As for the question about the metaphor, I think it's always dangerous to talk about that because it often sounds pretentious. Let's just say that whisky plays different roles in the film. It's an art, as people are very proud to make it and others delight in tasting the result. It's also part of a tourist's view of Scotland. But in reality, Scotland is the film's characters: Robbie, Rhino, and the others. We had lots of fun with these contrasts, these two completely different views of Scotland.
Why a comedy?
Paul Laverty and I wanted to take a tragic situation and present in a way to make people laugh and smile. To be honest, comedies are hard to shoot, but our approach was not to direct this film as if it were a comedy, trying to make people laugh at all cost or adding music to make it funnier. Our approach was to show the characters and the story in all their truth. As in the real world, there are moments of deep crisis and other funnier ones that make us smile or laugh. We don't live in a linear world without feelings. There is a little comedy and a little tragedy in every moment. We could have taken the film's characters and told a tragic story... As a director, you try to tell a particular story and the point is not to know whether you will make people laugh or cry, but if it's real.
Have you changed your attitude towards the working class, or your way of filming them?
It hasn't changed. The working class is the agent of change in society. What we have noticed, as the financial crisis worsens, is that the media has been covering its issues in an increasingly dramatic way, even criticising those demanding social benefits. We wanted to tackle things from another angle and stress the importance of this social class. A political debate is unavoidable. If the system destroys lives, and demanding a job, housing, a place to live when we grow old, security, and healthcare for our families is too much, it's only the result of the current crisis. It's very important to realise that what we consider to be impossible today was considered to be essential to societal life only a few decades ago. And if you think it's impossible today, it's not because that's the way of life, but because we have been led to believe this.
The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) is said to have asked you to remove some swear words from the film...
We were only allowed the word "cunt" seven times in the film, only when it wasn't aggressive. You get into the realm of surrealism here in terms of language. The British middle class is obsessed with what they call 'bad language.' Of course these are manipulative words, but we really should redefine what 'bad language' means.
Your film is co-produced by the Dardenne brothers' production company. What makes you close to them in filmmaking?
We share an appreciation for daily life, the comedy in daily life, the importance of ordinary peoples' lives. The Dardenne brothers' films are precise, subtle, and solid, and we are very happy to work together.