Friday, 30 September 2011
Tyrannosaur & Paddy Considine Q&A
With every seat filled, the audience was forced into every corner of a hot and cramped Hyde Park Picture House. It proved to be an entirely fitting environment for a film which was gripping, claustrophobic and occasionally unsettling.
The sell-out crowd were not only there to see Paddy Considine’s much-anticipated directorial debut, but also to listen to the man himself in a post-movie Q&A session. That the film is also set in Leeds added further interest. And nobody would leave the cinema disappointed after a truly fantastic night.
The film follows the violent drunk Joseph (Peter Mullan) as he struggles to curb his destructive outbursts. After a chance encounter with devoutly religious charity shop worker Hannah (Olivia Colman) he manages to tame his temper a little.
Despite her outwardly sunny disposition, Hannah is embroiled in a deeply abusive relationship with husband James (Eddie Marsan), a man who’s initially introduced to the audience whilst urinating on his sleeping wife. It’s arguably the least cruel act he commits.
Joseph and Hannah form an unlikely bond born out of mutual respect and recognition, friendship, love and the desire to atone for past sins.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, both Mullan and Marsan deliver powerful performances. The latter is given little screen time but still manages to invest his character with malevolent intent. He’s a disgusting man: a pretentious veneer hiding a streak of misogyny which manifests itself in the most vile, visceral ways imaginable.
Mullan’s Joseph is also a man of violence. But he’s a more interesting character: a collection of contradictions struggling to make sense of himself. It’s the kind of role which Mullan has revelled in before, but here he’s better than ever. There’s a stillness and a calm about Joseph which belies the sharp bursts of brutality he commits and a clear development in the character as he opens his heart to Hannah.
But it’s Olivia Colman who steals the film from under the noses of Considine, Mullan and Marsan. They’re three true heavyweights of British cinema and she’s merely the girl from Peep Show. Or at least, she was. Not any longer.
When interviewed after the film, Considine revealed the influence which Gary Oldman’s Nil By Mouth had on Tyrannosaur. And there’s a clear parallel to be drawn between Colman’s performance and that of Kathy Burke in Oldman’s movie: Considine himself expressed his surprise that a ‘comedy’ actress like Burke had delivered such a tour de force having previously been known for hanging about with Harry Enfield in a babygrow. His faith in Colman has paid off in spades, however. Like Burke she’s transcended her comedic origins to great effect. Having met her on the set of Hot Fuzz, Considine immediately recognised her potential and wrote the part with her in mind.
She’s a truly captivating presence. Initially she’s a friendly charity shop manager dispensing God’s wisdom to Joseph as he visits her shop, but her stoic facade crumbles when she returns to her semi-detached home and her monstrous husband.
The film’s greatest scene is a double header between Colman and Marsan. As his contrite James sobs unconvincing apologies into his wife’s lap the camera moves up to focus squarely on Colman. In a camera shot lasting around a minute her face is transformed: a mask of first hatred, then revulsion, self-loathing and pity which is truly heartbreaking. Her pain and inner turmoil are written all over her huge, beautiful eyes. It’s truly stunning.
When pressed on how he managed to draw such performances from his cast, Considine was self-effacing. He praised them for being able to act on cue (he has no time for method acting and believes it can destroy the sense of community on set) and revealed that he did little to elicit the stunning displays other than utter a few off camera instructions and give Colman one direct order: “Smash the fucking vase”.
Considine has made a truly brave movie here. He’s taken a kitchen sink drama, ramped it up to eleven and then removed the clichés and obvious plot developments that would have made Tyrannosaur predictable and hackneyed. He’s been disparaging of religion, included visceral explosions of sexual violence, taken a huge chance on his lead actress and insisted that his limited budget was stretched far enough to negate the need to use handheld cameras. Every one of those decisions has been vindicated in a triumphant debut.