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SAN SEBASTIÁN 2021 Competition

Lucile Hadzihalilovic • Director of Earwig

“This film is in the head of a man who is lost”

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- The third feature by the French director is her first in English; its European premiere is taking place in competition at San Sebastián, where Cineuropa spoke to her

Lucile Hadzihalilovic • Director of Earwig
(© SSIFF/Montse Castillo)

Earwig [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Lucile Hadzihalilovic
film profile
]
is an adaptation of the book by UK multidisciplinary artist Brian Catling, which was published in 2019. It’s set somewhere in Europe in the mid-20th century and stars Paul Hilton as a man called Albert, who looks after an isolated young girl. Other cast members include Romola Garai and Alex Lawther. The film has just had its European premiere in competition at the San Sebastián Film Festival following its Toronto screening. We spoke to director Lucile Hadzihalilovic.

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Cineuropa: The film has a very particular style, with an esoteric quality that is unsettling. Why did you want this aesthetic?
Lucile Hadzihalilovic: First of all, I think it’s because the book itself has this kind of dream logic. It’s very internal and much of it takes place inside the mind of this man. The film has this oneiric side, with things that are very mysterious and it’s what I liked in the book. So it’s why the film heads in this direction, even more so than my previous films. So because of this, I could go even further into this territory and it’s much more psychological.

How is it for you as a filmmaker to make a story where you know the audience has to work hard?
I didn’t think that they would be working too hard! This film is in the head of a man who is lost and who has crumbs of memories, nightmares and hallucinations and he doesn’t know the difference between them. I tried to put the spectator into this mind.

The idea of earwig, the insect, something crawling around, is that what defined the movie?
It’s funny, in the novel, earwig is an insect, of course. But in English it’s also someone who listens. And we have this man who hides in his room and only comes out at night. It’s not the only element that interested me in the book, but there is a side in the book that made me really think of the books of the start to the middle of the 20th century, which I like a lot.

For you to work in English, was that more difficult?
Naturally, it was much harder than when I worked in French. But as you see in the film, one advantage is that there is not too much dialogue in the movie. The thing that I found very difficult was the accents because it’s much more difficult for me to judge the correctness of the accents in England. To find the proper pronunciation for British actors to speak with a European actor who speaks English with an accent and harmonise was difficult.

Was it hard to find the actors?
To get Romola Garai and Alex Lawther was not too difficult. Romola, I had already seen in the cinema and so I knew her work. She knew my films really well. Alex, I didn’t know his work. A friend told me about him. He came to Paris and I saw The End of the F**King World, and that worked out quickly once we met. The most difficult to find was Paul Hilton because he works primarily in theatre, so I hadn’t seen his work. The casting director in England spoke about him and so when Paul was suggested he was working in theatre in America and when he came back to Europe we saw each other and I was so happy when I met him as he fit the character so well.

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