Andrew Haigh on 45 Years
Andrew Haigh's last film, Weekend, was a deeply felt story of a fledgling romance. He changes tack with 45 Years, which centres on a long-standing relationship in crisis. We spoke to the writer-director at Edinburgh International Film Festival
45 Years begins with Geoff receiving news that his first girlfriend, who disappeared while walking in the Alps 50 years ago, has been discovered, her body perfectly preserved in the ice. The news sends him into a tailspin, leaving Kate feeling out in the cold.
The film had its UK premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival, where Haigh walked away with the Michael Powell Award, the festival's prize for best British film. Ahead of the film's screening we spoke to Haigh, who discuss its themes, his use of music and the response from fans of his previous film Weekend and his HBO show Looking.
Videography by Richard Ferguson.
Andrew Haigh on 45 Years:
On David Constantine's short story:
"What was so interesting to me about the original short story was how it really was about how the power of what happens so long ago can still have so much effect on the present and how it can change and effect what is in the present day."
On making a film about a couple a generation older:
"I don’t feel like if you’re 70 you’re actually that different from when you’re 30 or 40. Really the film is about choices and the choices we make, the effect of those choices. We all look back on our past, we look back at decisions we’ve made, and doubt those decisions, and regret those decisions, and wonder if we should regret those decisions. So weirdly I didn’t deal with it in thinking, ‘This is about being 60 or 70,’ it just helps the story because there’s the fact that you can’t change so many of your decisions when you’re in your 60s or 70s; it’s harder to make choices that are going to change things. So I didn’t feel like I had to get into a mindset of I’m now 69, how would I feel? I’m 42, and I look back at my 20s and 30s and teenage years and think about decisions I made then and how that affects now."
On music in his films:
"Music is very important in my films, but, as you say, there’s no score. I want the music to come out of the characters, I suppose, so what is the music they’re listening to? But at the same time, I want it to be embedded into the world rather than be put on to create emotion. It’s the same way that I shoot things. I don’t cut that much, a lot of things are left are left wider than would perhaps be normal. I don’t resort to going in to closeups to create the emotion. I want it to be clear what the point of view of the film is, but at the same time still give you some objectivity and make you kind of lean in a little bit more, rather than be like ‘Oh, this is how she’s feeling, this piece of music is there to make me feel this.’ And I think not having a score gives the film almost a slightly strange feeling – you’re not used to not having a score, and I think that can be quite effective."
On the reaction from his gay fans:
"There are some people who are like, ‘I can’t believe you’ve turned your back on the gay community,’ and then of course you have people who are furious with me for Looking for representing the gay community in the wrong way. So you sometimes can’t win. For me, it was not a conscious decision not to do something that was gay, but neither did I only want to do things that were percieved as being gay, it happened to be that those were the first films I made. And obviously the TV show came out of HBO liking Weekend. I’m more interested in relationships than I am in just gay relationships. That interests me more. I think in the future my career will vary, whether I’m telling stories about gay people or straight people."