email print share on Facebook share on Twitter share on reddit pin on Pinterest

LOCARNO 2022 Out of competition

Andrew Legge • Director of LOLA

“The classic problem you face when you’re doing a found footage film is to motivate the camera in the scene”

by 

- We sat down with the director, who crafted a compelling sci-fi feature which skilfully combines elements of mockumentary and alternate history

Andrew Legge • Director of LOLA
(© Locarno Film Festival/Ti-Press/Massimo Pedrazzini)

Playing out of competition at this year’s Locarno Film Festival, Lola [+see also:
film review
interview: Andrew Legge
film profile
]
is an Irish-British sci-fi mockumentary helmed by Andrew Legge. The film tells the story of two sisters who create a time machine capable of intercepting future TV broadcasts. Brits are fighting the Nazi, and this discovery may play a crucial role in turning the tide of the war. Cineuropa met the director at the Gran Caffè Verbano the day after the movie’s world premiere.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: How did the idea for the film come about? Are there any specific sci-fi cinematic references that inspired you in crafting this story?
Andrew Legge: The idea came from a short film I made, called The Chronoscope. In it, the protagonist builds a machine able to look into the past. We developed the idea for a machine looking into the future, with it being exposed to culture and music of different eras. That was the germ of the idea and we built it from there. We set it in the 1940s because there was the backdrop of the war and it was an era before pop music, which is a post-war phenomenon of liberation. Initially, I was very interested in Neorealism and documentaries from the 1960s, with a cinéma vérité kind of quality... In terms of filmmaking references, I love Chris Marker’s La jetée, and we were planning to have more sequences with still images. It’s weird because you have all these inspirations when you’re writing the story, but when you start making the film, it comes into itself, and some of these ideas had to be dropped along the way. Woody Allen’s Zelig was also an early reference. Weirdly, the challenge with this movie was trying to make a documentary where you’re emotionally distant from the characters. So, in a sense, the early version of this movie might have been something more like Zelig, possibly with photographs and interviews. In terms of aesthetics, we were really fascinated by the technology of the 1940s, the steel, the woods, the glass and the materials of the time...

Music plays a big role in this film.
Music is a big thing for me. We gave Neil Hannon, our composer, this brief: “We want you to write music in the 1940s but that’s been inspired by music that these characters might have heard from the future.” And that’s the sisters’ own music, they’re playing this kind of weird synth stuff... In the second half, we see music from a fascist, alternate 1970s-1980s, with pop songs “The Sound Of Marching Feet” and “To The Gallows.”

How did you work on delivering this found footage feel?
We didn’t want to do digital manipulation. We wanted it to look the way it looks. The best way was to use a real camera. We used, as much as we could, a clockwork Bolex 16 mm. Beautiful images came out of it. I didn’t want any lighting on the set, so we just lit the environment naturally. I’ve shot some of the films myself and developed them as well.

The movie boasts a fragmented structure, with several time shifts. How did you manage to find a balance between clarity and non-linearity? How challenging was fulfilling this task during the writing phase?
The writing was really hard,  and the classic problem you’ve got when you’re doing a found footage film is to motivate the camera in the scene. It’s a total pain, I hated it, I’m never gonna do this thing again! [laughs] In a way, that’s why the film is very short, you’re pushing the audience... With the earlier cut of the edit, it was much more fragmented. It was bouncing between trying to keep it jugged and fragmented, because that’s the aesthetics of the movie, but also trying to create something that’s coherent. One thing that really helped us was the sound mix, as we made the decision to do proper, full sound — even though the picture is fragmented, the sound helps smoothing that out.  

There’s extensive archive footage shown throughout. How did you source it? Did you task someone or did you find it yourself?
It was both. We had one collaborator. We gave him briefs to look for footage of Hitler’s car arriving, for example. He was brilliant at finding the stuff we were looking for but also at showing us some great archives. We sourced footage from Pathé, Getty, AP, Alamy... What’s great is that all that is online, you can type some keywords and find it. That’s also how we found the scene of the protests with the balloons in London. That was done way before we shot the film and we planned all the sequences around that archive footage. With the archive it was a bit like a chicken and egg situation, we were going both ways. We were finding archive footage before shooting the movie, and when we finished the edit, we were also looking for some additional footage.

All of this with some manipulation, though...
Right. [laughs]

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.

See also

Privacy Policy