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Carol Morley • Director

"Every time I make a film, I want it to be like the first time"


- Ahead of The Falling's UK release, Cineuropa caught up with Carol Morley to get a sense of what makes her tick and how she works as a director

Carol Morley  • Director

Originally a fine-art film and video graduate, Carol Morley has had an interesting path into filmmaking. From band member to market researcher, her journey has certainly been unorthodox. But The Falling [+see also:
film review
interview: Carol Morley
film profile
 clearly demonstrates how brilliantly fresh and organic her creativity is, and she is definitely one to watch.

Cineuropa: Do you think you've arrived at a style that you'd like to keep using with The Falling?
Carol Morley: Oh, no. For me it's about the story, and the story should guide you as to how it wants to be told. I'm not a big fan of style, really, because it feels like you get into a groove, and you're not really learning or enquiring or uncovering what you should see as a result. So I think every time I make a film, I want it to be like the first time. And working with Agnès Godard, she had that attitude, too. Maybe it's a good thing that I feel that way? Maybe people think, "Thank God she's not going to do that again." [laughs]

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You've previously done documentaries. Do you find making dramas and documentaries similar?
Yes, because I do a lot of research. So the only way I differentiate is that in a fiction, the people don't really exist. But ultimately, when I wrote The Falling, I believed I was writing a total reconstruction of something that had happened, because I'd done so much research. I also used to always have pictures out of magazines in front of me, so I had people who I felt were the real characters.

Was The Falling also influenced by your short The Madness of the Dance?
Yeah, when I did that short, I discovered this whole topic of mass psychogenic experiences that goes back to medieval times. And I found it very intriguing, because experts don't really know why they happen. So I remember even before making that short film, I thought, I'm going to make a feature one day set in a school about mass hysteria. It took a while, though: that was ten years ago!

But I knew that's what I wanted to do. And after Dreams of a Life [+see also:
film profile
, I needed to do something collective. So I was drawn to telling a story where people connected. Schools are also pretty universal, so almost anyone can connect to them, too.

Is it also important to you to connect different artistic traditions in your films?
I wouldn't say so. I kept a sort of scrapbook, and that felt like this amazing way of connecting people to the material and communicating what you wanted quickly. So when I was writing The Falling, because the history of mass hysteria goes back to medieval times, I wanted to tap into that. Including a sense of older traditions was important for that. You would start to look at Renaissance paintings and you'd begin to see their colours in the school uniforms, because school uniforms are very historic. So I was trying to reach back.

Could you tell us about how music influences your creative process, too?
Well before I even write, I will have a soundtrack. A lot of the original songs from the 1960s or before, for example, I wrote to. They would play as I wrote, and I think I assigned a song to each character. I think most of these songs made their way into the film, too. So the Mary Hopkins that opens the film (and Florence later plays it) was written about the moon, and I feel music helps add a characterisation to the film very early on in this way. You're not just applying it later in the edit; you need to work with your music early on, I think.

There are also scenes where images of Abbie flash over other images; how did you edit those?
Well, the editor and I had this theory that if you put three frames together you would only see one of them. And every time we watched it, we would see something different. Also, when the DVD comes out, if you extract those bits and put them together, they make their own story. So the extra features might give you clues into the film! But yeah, we were calling these flash-frames "subliminals" because you see them, but I believe you don't see them all. So in some ways, they are subliminal. We wanted these to feel like you were inside somebody's mind losing it a little bit, and also that they were fracturing the story.

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