Mike Leigh • Director
by Fabien Lemercier
15/05/2010 - Flanked by the actors from Another Year [trailer, film focus], presented in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival, UK director Mike Leigh shared with the press a few elements for interpreting his film and his desire to recreate life in all its complexity on screen.
Focusing on emotion and vulnerability, Another Year shows characters who seem to be devoid of secrets and it doesn’t provide any particular answers. Is the burden of ageing the film’s real subject?
Mike Leigh: As we get older, life becomes clearer and, at the same time, more complicated. The film looks at the way we make peace with life and the way we encounter each other. I hope it stirs up, as it has done for me, thoughts, emotions, and feelings with regard to enjoying the ageing process whilst coping with life’s demands. That’s a rather vague answer, but that’s the film’s territory.
Filming the daily life of ordinary people and showing their lives to viewers in a sense, is this difficult to achieve without being boring?
It’s simple: people aren’t boring, nobody is and ordinary people are no more boring than those who aren’t ordinary. Life is fascinating. We’re human beings, we have an unlimited power of fascination and a natural passion that encourage us to observe life and celebrate it. My DoP Dick Pope and I have been working together for over 20 years with this shared concern for showing ordinary life. It’s almost documentary filmmaking, but on this film, we worked a lot on the visual side to recreate a world where we’re aware of the different seasons in particular. Each season is filmed quite subtly in a different way with different atmospheres.
The character of single woman Mary is quite pathetic compared to the happy couple.
Her life is a disaster, we may think it’s wasted, but there’s no nasty intention there. The film looks at suffering and the way we cope with it, but it is sympathetic towards her. We show life as it is: we observe the character and explore them in a three-dimensional way. But we leave lots of horizons open. The story is constructed in such a way that there are lots of unrevealed aspects.
Why is the outside world completely absent from your film?
It surrounds the characters. The implicit assumption, given the film’s genre, is that viewers will instinctively recognise themselves in these characters’ world. The outside world could be a distraction and it comes through in dozens of references in conversations. The film traces the microscopic life of these characters whom we explore and examine in depth on an emotional level.
After your optimistic film Happy–Go-Lucky [trailer], why have you returned to a darker tone with Another Year?
The film deals with darker themes, but it affirms life and its positive sides just as much, but from a more complex perspective. This is life in all its complexity, a very rich film to be got to grips with and discussed. Even though, as Jean Renoir said, we always make the same film.
In the face of the new technology used in Hollywood films, do you think the type of films you make are an endangered species?
There’s no danger of that. It’s even good news in a way because new technology enables young directors to observe, record and distribute cheaply. I’m very optimistic about the future of cinema. There are still some dinosaurs who think that the only viable films are cynical, commercial and heavily financed. But they’re wrong, for the films of the future will capture the real world.