'Imagination will take you everywhere'
HINTERLAND is not a dramatic film. It isn’t particularly thrilling, or engrossing or awe-inspiring. There are no plot-twists or love triangles or sudden deaths. Yet tears will slowly but surely roll with the credits.
Harry Macqueen’s debut film is honest and pure; that in itself makes it a courageous and powerful masterpiece. Shot in 13 days between London and Cornwall, it tells the familiar tale of an old friendship reignited on a road trip of discovery; remembering the past and trying to make sense of the future. This is a very human story that many people can relate to – exploring themes of adulthood and the expectations and responsibilities that come with it, whilst containing an underlying socio-political tone. The film opens with a discussion on the radio, “£30,000 debt from university, before you’ve even got a job” complains an outraged woman. This sets the perspective for not only the film but modern Britain today – in which the younger generation are trying to make sense of a reality plagued with debt and disappointment. Indeed Macqueen says the film deals with people in a period of personal flux “within the context of a country itself unsure of its direction.”
Both of the characters are struggling artists; Harvey is a writer (Macqueen) and Lola is a musician (played beautifully by real-life musician, Lori Campbell). They are complete opposites; where Lola is a wild, adventurous extrovert, Harvey is a shy, thoughtful introvert. However they share the same fears of being stuck in a rut of boredom and both yearn to chase their dreams whilst slowly giving up on them. There is an unspoken bond between the two friends. Silence features heavily in this film – broken only by the squawking of a seagull – it shows their quiet understanding of one another and their strong companionship despite the years they’ve spent apart. “It’s ok if you’re scared. I’m scared. We’re all scared.” Harvey tells Lola; thus seemingly speaking for the youth of today.
With the glow of a campfire flickering across their faces, they dissect life’s problems – or rather Lola complains about life. “Marriage and relationships – it’s just bollocks.” Lola is constantly trying to escape her problems, yet at some point she must stop running and start facing them. “But there’s so much more I want to see and do.” Harvey simply sits and listens, but as soon as Lola drifts into song with her sweet melodic tones and gentle guitar strumming, it’s easy to see that Harvey is enraptured. Later on he perfectly sums up what the film is getting at; “it’s all just a matter of adventure and you’re the most adventurous person I know. When you’re around it’s like anything is possible.” It’s Lola who makes Harvey feel brave and inspired – like he’s still that little kid with his whole future ahead of him.
Cornwall has its own pride of place in this film; it’s not only just the setting, but a chance for both the characters and viewer to escape from the confines of everyday life. Cinematographer, Ben Hecking’s beautiful uninterrupted shots of desolate moorland, winding country lanes, muddy fields and windswept beaches evoke memories of childhood holidays. The ocean acts as a metaphor for the vast unknown that stretches out in front of the characters, as well as the rough breaking waves which echo the turbulent and cruel turns of life that batter friendship, but ultimately makes it stronger and more prominent. The wildness of the sea is both fearsome and calming – a constant in their ever-changing world. At the end Lola jokes “Unless we stay here forever?”, in deepest darkest Cornwall it’s easy to forget your worries – as if the beauty and power of the natural world makes everything seem so small and trivial; like you are just a tiny part of this massive world, and nothing else matters apart from the here and now.
Macqueen said he wanted the camera to be a passive observer – indeed the audience feel as if they are merely onlookers, blessed with the chance to witness a moving and eloquently told journey which is captured in a way that is visually freeing and emotionally rejuvenating. Very still camera movement allows more focus on the composition of shots and to highlight the actors’ performances; thus giving a more natural rhythm. The lack of fancy special effects and distracting camera work adds to the raw honesty of the film. This style is reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s films (with whom Macqueen worked with as an actor in 2009). Particularly his latest film, Boyhood, which similarly conveys change and the issues of growing up in a natural, slow, honest way – with plenty of improvisation and realism that is refreshing in today’s film industry.
It’s no surprise that HINTERLAND has been nominated for Best UK Feature at the Raindance Film Festival 2014 – described as “a masterpiece of the unsaid and the unseen.” While the Independent declares it is “taking the indie world by storm”. It certainly is a visually stunning commentary which touches on an array of emotions – confusion, disappointment, yearning and contentment – leaving the audience reeling from the emotional rollercoaster and yet feeling as if they have a better perspective on life. But this film isn’t just a depiction of friendship and change – it is a love letter to Cornwall. It made me pine for the seaside. There’s nothing a good blast of salty sea air can’t solve.
HINTERLAND will be released in the UK by Curzon Cinemas and Curzon Home Cinema on Friday 27th February 2015.