Today we welcome Luke Seomore (second from right) to the site in order to chat about his new film Blood Cells. We spoke to lead actor Barry Ward a few days ago¹, so now’s your chance to get a different perspective on the film and the questions it raises. Read on for our interview…
Firstly could you just tell our readers a little bit about the film in your own words?
It’s a film about reconnecting with your past, I guess that’s its main theme. It’s also about memories; how everyday when we move through our lives there is always a little element of our past which we carry with us. What if that part is poignant and tough and it comes back to haunt us, what happens then?
Having seen the film myself I was wondering whether you see it as being more of a political film or a personal narrative that’s rooted in memory?
Yeah it’s not a political film. It’s an interesting thing because Blood Cells was (written and directed) 50/50 between Joe and myself, and as much as we are very close friends I don’t know what he thinks about it. But it’s not a political film, despite us having a lot of strong political views.
There was a point where we were talking about Ivan’s Childhood by Tarkovsky, its quite an extraordinary film where the protagonist has these memoirs which come back to him. I started talking to Joseph and my girlfriend Hannah about this idea of memories which, no matter how much you repress them, they return everyday. If you push them under water, they resurface. It’s an extraordinary thing…
So your focus when writing the script was primarily on memory then?
It was memory and it was that central premise about how time is collapsible and can haunt you in your present day. We also started talking about the foot and mouth crisis. It’s an interesting point in British history because the 711 bombings engulfed the crisis and now, completely understandably, people don’t remember foot and mouth as much as the September event.
The imagery of all those animals dying kept affecting Joe and I and then we started saying ‘well what do you think happened to those who owned them and the land? What about the sons and the daughters who owned the land?’. We wanted to hear their story because they are picking up all of the second-hand emotional trauma from the crisis.
It feels very grounded in realism but there are distinctive, if small, directorial decisions made such as the prevalence of slow–motion and flashback scenes which depart from that approach. What was the thinking behind using those?
Well with documentary you try to capture exactly what is going on, and something which frustrates us about that world is that you have to be a purist and reflect everything. If you look at Dylan Thomas, even though some of his work is obscure, through his poetry he gets to a truth better than a lot of documentary filmmakers would do. So we did put some more lyrical passages in the film rather than aiming for visceral purity.
What was the thinking behind staggering the true nature of the family tragedy through flashbacks? Did you ever consider playing that straight?
We started talking to some friends and psychologists about dealing with trauma and something we learnt is that it’s easier for people to deal with trauma in a fragmented sense. If you remember it in one go then it is too traumatic. So we realised that our lead character would want to bury the trauma and that fragmentation interested us.
Then when we talked to Barry Ward we said ‘imagine you went through this trauma but you didn’t know the full truth straight away. Imagine that you knew someone was ill, and then few weeks later you knew they were really ill’ or some equivalent.
It seems like you came into the project with a very clear idea of what you wanted from this film, but did you find your ideas shifting and adapting as you began directing Blood Cells?
It did to a certain degree… Joseph and I come from a documentary background where you have an idea and then got and meet the people and try to find the themes there. In drama you go in with an idea of that already. Then when you have people like Barry Ward and Hayley Squires who bring these truly fucking amazing ideas things start to grow. No matter how brilliant somebody like Kubrick or Almodóvar they’re only as good as their collaborators are. Great collaborators really enrich the script and film, and they brought an extra soul to Blood Cells and made it richer than we could imagine. That’s when it starts to get really exciting as they push it to places they don’t expect.
Well we’ve worked together exclusively since meeting at arts college. Once we get on set we are very close and have a strong trust in each other’s instincts so, without sounding cheesy it’s a very instinctive relationship. It’s interesting because the people I love are the Dardenne brothers and the Coens who are all brothers, and of course Joe and I are not brothers but over ten years or so we have built up a relationship and shared experience where we now totally respect each other.
When we started out we had so many arguments, there would be fist fights and it would just go wrong. Although we were good friends and loved each others’ work it wasn’t until Blood Cells that we sat down in a room for about a month and were completely honest with each other. We would ask ‘what song is Blood Cells?’, ‘what novel?’, ‘what film is Blood Cells?’. After that no matter who we brought in it wasn’t going to shake our collective vision.
Of course the one thing you did separately from Joseph was the score. Was that something you approached late in the project or did you work on that throughout the process?
We started visiting locations together for Blood Cells and talking about musical influences. Because these were certain strange parts of England in the film I would record the sounds there and then sample them back in the studio. Joe was always there and, although the only thing he can play is 3 Blind Mice on a recorder, he has a very instinctive idea of sound so we would talk about it a lot.
Are there particular projects or directions that you want to take on in the future then?
We’ve always been attracted to those who are a little outside of society, so there are some ideas in the works there. Half of my family aren’t English so there is a certain disconnection there which always has made me feel like a bit of an outsider.
There’s one story in particular set in Northern Ireland which we are trying to get some money together for, hopefully we will shoot that early next year. But there isn’t one story that we want to tell. To us its the characters which are the most important thing.
Drama is, to a certain degree, driven by plot but because we come from a documentary background we are obsessed with characters. If you find someone who is unique and timeless then, no matter what they are like, you’ll be able to find a great plot to put behind them.
And that’s all folks! Make sure you let us know what you think about Blood Cells and this interview in the comment box below!