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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018 Competition

Peter Strickland • Director of In Fabric

“What I wanted was the randomness of death”

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- SAN SEBASTIÁN 2018: We caught up with British director Peter Strickland to talk about dresses, Giallo and sexual desire in his new effort, In Fabric

Peter Strickland  • Director of In Fabric
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Peter Strickland is a British director based in Hungary whose films catch the eye on account of their stylish execution, off-kilter characters and haunting aesthetic. His fourth effort, In Fabric [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Peter Strickland
film profile
]
, is playing in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival, where we caught up with the filmmaker to talk about dresses, Giallo and sexual desire.

Cineuropa: Why did you want to make a film about a red dress?
Peter Strickland:
I just think it’s very interesting. It’s not so much the dress, but the dress combined with the human presence, that is interesting to me. Clothing is haunting: even if no one has worn the item before, someone has made it for you, and probably under very bad conditions as well. What I’m wearing is from a second-hand shop, and with second-hand clothing, someone dead has probably worn the clothing before us, so it’s really just looking at this idea of sadness.

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In Fabric shows how clothing can affect our mood.
Yes; for example, you feel disgusted if you have to pick up someone else’s underwear, or it can be the opposite, where Sheila is disgusted by Gwen’s underwear, but Vince is so turned on by it. The same item can have radically different responses from different people. So really, In Fabric is putting that idea into a genre framework and seeing what happens with it.

Did the dress have to be red?
It had to be red because it opens up questions about blood – regular blood and menstrual blood – and it’s the colour of death. There is also the vibrancy of it: it’s an incredibly strong colour. 

Much of the film is about clothing selling sex; why was this aspect important?
Because it is a huge part of it – even for Sheila’s character, as she’s trying to make herself desirable. The commodification of human desire leads us to all kinds of places and to darker areas, like Babs’s dysmorphia, where she cannot come to terms with her own body, and Reg with his tights fetish. There are all kinds of scenarios that play out with a certain level of humour, but you can see how these characters are obsessed with these things; they play with them every day. It all comes down to sexual desire in some way. 

There is an interesting double mirror in the film – when we change central character, the same events play out again.
There is a link. When I wrote the first draft, the characters were much more closely linked. Reg was fixing Sheila’s washing machine. The problem was that it became fatalistic, and there was a lot of destiny; it was too tied up. What I wanted was the randomness of death. These characters are not being judged. Both parts take place in the same town, so people go to the same nightclubs, and if there is something to do with the dress, then there will definitely be repetitions, and the musical motifs were definitely repeated.

How is In Fabric influenced by your fascination with Giallo?
When you do things, you honestly don’t know what you will end up with. I’m influenced by stuff that sort of comes from my subconscious. The influence was definitely clearer with my last two films than it is with this one, and if I’m really honest, what was more of an influence than Giallo was The Office and Ricky Gervais; it was a very cathartic approach to laughing at what we all regarded as dead time. So many of my friends from university and I, we had these white-collar jobs, and we all regarded it as dead time. But somehow, there are stories in these jobs, and you can use them for material – and that was really eye-opening for me.

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