Andrew Haigh discusses 45 Years, shooting long takes, keeping us in Kate’s head space, and editing the film before the editing room.
Read more: Review of 45 Years >>
Between 45 Yearsand Looking, Andrew Haigh has written and directed one of the best films and the best television series of 2015. Both works expand on his interest in stories about romantic relationships and intimacy, previously explored in his Criterion-minted Weekend — sometimes referred to as the gay Before Sunrise. Both show his knack for directing precisely blocked scenes in long takes and getting great performances out of his actors. Haigh’s scripts and direction are wise and precise.
In 45 Years, Haigh excavates 45 years of marriage — the routines, the intimacy, the resentment, the personal mythologies, and the secrets. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff (Tom Courtenay) seem to have an idyllic, marriage when a ghost from Geoff’s past appears, shaking up the very foundation of their relationship. For their virtuoso performance, Rampling and Courtenay won the acting awards at last year’s Berlin Film Festival for their performances. Rampling has since garnered a Best Actress Oscar nomination.
When the film screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, I sat down with Haigh to discuss shooting long takes, keeping us in Kate’s head space, and editing the film before the editing room.
Seventh Row (7R): As the opening credits are rolling on a black background, we hear the sound of the slide carousel. How did you decide to start that way with that sound?
Andrew Haigh (AH): We didn’t plan it. It was the editor, actually, tried it as a little experiment. And then we just loved the idea. I love the idea, in films, that you plant things that people don’t really understand. When they come later, you might not even remember that you’d heard that sound, necessarily, but something subconsciously links the two things together. Because the film is about the past reappearing in the present, we tried, when we could, to place sounds throughout the film that link to something later on.
7R: What were some of the other sounds?
AH: There’s certain sounds of creaking that you hear, very subconsciously early on, and certain winds that we use later on in the attic. Visually, you end up noticing those things, but sound effects disappear somewhere in the ether. You kind of forget about them, and they reappear again. And also things, I suppose, like Kate whistling “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” when she’s walking down at the very beginning. You don’t know anything about that, what that song is then, at all. Then it becomes something that reappears. It’s always trying to find little things that you can place along the way.
7R: There are a lot of long shots of Kate walking from one side of the frame all the way to the other. It’s not a long distance, but it seems like a big distance and like a metaphor for the time they spent together.
AH: For me, the film was very much about this couple that had been living in stasis for quite a long time, as most relationships do end up being. Your relationships, after a while, get defined by these repetitious actions, whether it’s making tea or going for a walk.
I like the idea of these repetitious actions. In the film, what happens is, the first shot when she’s walking is a lot longer than the next time we see it. And the third time we see it, there’s no dog actually in the frame with her. So it’s about trying to alter those actions to show the repetitious nature of their lives crumbling away as this past is coming to the present.