Dir.: Harry Macqueen; Cast: Harry Macqueen, Lori Campbell
UK 2014, 78 min.
Brilliant film debuts are rare: mostly we get to watch “calling-cards for Hollywood”; but British director/writer/actor Harry Macqueen’s HINTERLAND, produced on a shoestring (£8,000) is a film poem, realistic and magical with minimal dialogue, this two-hander delicately draws a picture of a young woman and her male friend set against the gentle Cornish landscape, to tell the story of a re-union which eventually becomes a homage to youth and its lost illusions.
When Harvey (Macqueen) fetches his friend Lola (Campbell) from her London flat to travel to Cornwall in an ancient Volvo – Lola greets the car enthusiastically with “Hello, old friend” – we know very little about them, apart from the fact that Lola has been away for a long time. The importance of her presence for Harvey lets us assume that he had not had the best of times during her absence. All this is relayed to the audience indirectly, sparing us long monologues and details. Instead we share their feeling of nostalgia as they set out to the Cornish seaside to visit a cottage where they had been close and happy together some time ago. Lola takes photos on the way, as if to prove to herself that the past is still alive.
In the cottage they revert to being young and silly, using walkie-talkies whilst evoking the past as if they were suddenly middle-aged. But the brittleness of both of them shows through: Harvey talks about a relationship with a certain Sarah, who wanted children and security, and found both with another man. Harvey’s professional life is equally unsatisfactory; he is re-writing his novels forever and the work in a publishing house is badly paid and boring – he “just tries to get noticed”. Lola, a musician, seems to have come to a sort of end-point too; she will try to support her mother, who has been left by a partner who had cheated on her for a long time. She complains: “What is it with middle aged-men, it’s like a switch is pulled and they are off and mess everything up”. Both Harvey and Lola swear never to become ‘mature” the way most people do: children and marriage after thirty. They’d rather hide forever in the illusionary world of their youth where everything is pure and noble, the grey of adulthood has no place in their wishful, independent world. There is a heavy languidness about them; a much too early resignation; an expense of spirit which leaves only place for nostalgia. Two wounded animals looking for cover in their past.
Macqueen and Campbell have a near telepathic understanding, they react to each other subtly, always emotionally alert. The camera captures the seaside imaginatively as a (lost) paradise, a dreamy, misty, fabled land from the past. Every object touched in the cottage is full of meaning and this is accentuated by a change of light. Finally, the music is unobtrusive but stays, like the whole film, for a long time with the viewer.
HINTERLAND’s uniqueness is perfectly captured by the mood of the first stanza of Verlaine’s poem, taking the name from its first line: “It’s Languorous ecstasy/It’s amorous syncope/It’s all the wood’s trembling/In the breeze’s embrace/It’s in branches grey/All the small voices singing. A poignant, magical debut. AS
IN CINEMAS FROM 27 FEBRUARY 2015
HINTERLAND is a carbon neutral film. www.hinterlandthefilm.com