Eoin Macken • Director of Here Are the Young Men
“When you’re in a night club, listening to music, nothing else matters apart from your world and its orbit”
- DMovies sat down with the Irish filmmaker to talk about the adaptation of Rob Doyle’s novel, the challenges involved in transposing it to the silver screen, toxic masculinity and much more
Set in Dublin in 2003, Eoin Macken’s Here Are the Young Men [+see also:
interview: Eoin Macken
film profile], an adaptation of Rob Doyle’s novel, sees Matthew (Dean-Charles Chapman) and his friends Kearney (Joe Cole), Rez (Walsh Peelo) and Jen (Anja Taylor-Joy) losing themselves in the clichés of drink, drugs, sex and thrill-seeking for one last summer. In conversation with DMovies, Macken discussed exploring the reality of youth in a viscerally and honest way, and his personal impressions of the huge appeal young Irish men hold for America. Here Are the Young Men is out now on VOD and DVD.
DMovies: ‘What we are’ versus ‘who we feel we are’ can often be out of synch. I’ve spoken with directors who say that it took a number of films before they felt they could call themselves ‘a filmmaker’. Do you feel that you can call yourself a filmmaker?
Eoin Macken: I honestly don’t know if I’d call myself a filmmaker yet. What I love about filmmaking is being a part of the process of storytelling with others. It’s a collaborative effort, and you get to work with people who know so much more than you do, and the buzz of creating a story and being involved in that fascinates me. All I did when I was a kid was read, and then suddenly you’re able to put these stories onto a screen and add music. It’s fascinating, but I don’t know if I’d call myself a filmmaker – I don’t know if I know what I’m doing. I just know what I like and what I’m trying to make, and I know I have all these other stories I want to tell.
Was it your intention to puncture the romanticisation of living in one’s head, of dreaming, as the reality of being free from the educational institution dawns on the four characters?
First and foremost, I wanted to make something that hopefully felt universal. The movie is based on the book which is set in Ireland in a certain time period, and I wanted to be very specific about that. I dragged some stuff from a book I’d written and my own experiences into Rob’s work. I wanted the story to be universal so that if you transposed these characters to Canada, America, Germany, or Brazil, they’d be variations of the same people.
The book actually has four characters in it, and I changed it to three characters, taking bits and pieces of the four to make three more specific characters. The thing about reality, and especially the reality of youth, is that when you’re in a night club, listening to music, nothing else matters apart from your world and its orbit. You can go into a club and one particular song will come on, and your mood will be lifted. It doesn’t matter if you’re drinking or doing drugs, whatever it is, your endorphins in that moment are suddenly raised.
It can be the same when you walk down the street in New York for the first time. Whatever you’re listening to at the time, it could be Led Zeppelin or the Sugababes, it comes to represent that “this is awesome” reality. This is what these kids experience, so I wanted to get at that, but there’s also the negative side of it, where your thoughts go to a dark place and which brings you down. I wanted to try to make it as visceral as possible in the film, and to explore it in whichever context made sense.
Should an adaptation be an extension of the source material, i.e., less about being faithful to the narrative and more about honouring the spirit of the story and its characters?
Rob and I had a chat about this and I told him I needed him to trust me if I changed things. If I’d made a tidy little adaptation of his book, I don’t think he or I would have found it interesting. A lot of the music in the film is what I was listening to when I read the book. I wanted to make something that was visually and cinematically interesting, and which had an energy that grabs the viewer as much as the tone of the book. I changed it to make it more of a linear story, and to give it more of a purpose, because I wanted to say something about the morality of the characters in the movie that comes through in the book. The main thing was getting to the crux of the novel’s tone and to the heart of the characters and their world, taking something which resembled that story and creating some sort of through-line.
It’s an interpretation of what the book and the characters mean to me, and what they should be. It’s not a literal adaptation; there are things in the movie that didn’t exist in Rob’s story. You want to make something which can stand alongside it but which isn’t the same, because I’m a different artist to Rob. We write differently, he sees the world differently, he has a different lexicon and we structure sentences differently. We therefore watch and listen to movies differently, so this is my version of what this is, and what my art is.
Read the full interview here.
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