Au­then­tic­ity is key to film about lives of trav­ellers

The National - News - Arts & Life - - Front Page - Chris New­bould

Tres­pass Against Us is some­thing of a de­par­ture for Adam Smith, a direc­tor best known for his work on mu­sic videos and stage shows for elec­tronic act The Chem­i­cal Brothers, and the cult Bri­tish TV teen drama Skins.

For his big- screen de­but, he has aban­doned his pop-mu­sic roots in favour of an ul­tra-re­al­is­tic study of life in a com­mu­nity of trav­ellers in Glouces­ter­shire, Eng­land.

“I wanted to make a film as it is rather then go­ing for that poppy thing,” he says. “I wanted to take peo­ple into a world and re­ally im­merse them in it. “We worked hard on mak­ing it as au­then­tic as pos­si­ble. It’s ac­tu­ally based on a real fam­ily. They saw it at a screen­ing, and loved it and thought it was re­ally real and truth­ful. That was the best com­pli­ment we could have had, re­ally.”

The movie tells the story of Chad Cut­ler (Michael Fass­ben­der), and his at­tempts to es­cape the in­flu­ence of an over­bear­ing fa­ther to se­cure a bet­ter fu­ture for his chil­dren.

In keep­ing to its com­mit­ment to re­al­ism, the film stu­diously avoids any moral judge­ment on the Cut­ler clan and their life of crime, opt­ing in­stead for an ob­jec­tive, al­most docudrama ap­proach.

“It’s not as sim­ple as [a case of] he just wants to get away,” Smith says. “Maybe dra­mat­i­cally that might have been a bet­ter choice, but there’s that con­flict there. He does want to get away, but at the same time he en­joys the life he lives, and he’s pretty good at what he does – even though that’s mostly rob­bing stately homes and driv­ing stolen cars.

“We just wanted to por­tray the re­al­ity, not view it through any par­tic­u­lar set of lenses.”

Still, the bleak­ness and moral am­bi­gu­ity mean this is a chal­leng­ing film to watch. Adding to the chal­lenge, par­tic­u­larly in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets, the char­ac­ters’ ac­cents are thick West Coun­try drawls that even I, a na­tive of Eng­land, strug­gled to un­der­stand at times. Smith con­cedes some view­ers might have trou­ble with the di­alect, but is con­vinced that his com­mit­ment to re­al­ism was the right de­ci­sion.

“There was talk of sub­ti­tling but we de­cided not to,” he says. “This is a dif­fer­ent world to the one most peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence, and we wanted to show that, not sani­tise it and see it through an out­siders eyes.

“The hope is that you kind of catch up with the slang and the ac­cents along the way. Maybe we should have sub­ti­tled it for some mar­kets, but we wanted to keep it au­then­tic. Com­mer­cially, that could prove a ter­ri­ble de­ci­sion, but it’s what we wanted to do.”

In his ex­pe­ri­ence, he adds, in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences have coped well with the ac­cents.

“We screened it at Toronto,” he says. “I guess you could ar­gue that a film-fes­ti­val au­di­ence is kind of a home crowd, but there were 2,000 peo­ple laugh­ing, boo­ing, ah­hing and clap­ping at the end.

“I did a Q&A to a packed house and al­though some peo­ple ad­mit­ted they’d strug­gled with the ac­cents, they’d en­joyed it and got what’s go­ing on.”

It helps that Smith pulled off quite a coup in at­tract­ing manof-the-mo­ment Fass­ben­der to his low-bud­get drama.

“Michael loved the script and I think he re­ally got Chad on a re­ally pro­found level,” he says.

“It gave him a chance to play a part he’d never re­ally done be­fore. We’ve never seen him as a fam­ily man on screen. That and he re­ally likes driv­ing cars fast too,” he adds with a laugh.

Tres­pass Against Us is in cin­e­mas from to­mor­row. Check www. then­ational.ae/arts-life to­mor­row for our re­view

Ni­cola Dove

Adam Smith on the set of Tres­pass Against Us, based on the true story of a fam­ily of trav­ellers.

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