How Joanna Hogg Created a Cinematic Universe About Her Life

Joanna Hogg is probably the most understated filmmaker to have an entire cinematic universe revolving around her right now. The British director appeared with his feature film debut in 2007. irrelevantwhich has an autobiographical tone and continues to shoot two more brilliantly silent interpersonal dramas, archipelago and Exhibition. But it was with the 2019s Memory That Hogg began to create an interconnected series that blurs the line between fiction and memory. He draws on his own life to tell the story of Julie, a young film student in the 1980s, who embarks on a disastrous but formative relationship while trying to find the artistic voice of Julie.

In that movie and its sequel (2021s) Commemorative Part II), Julie was played by Honor Swinton Byrne, and her mother, Rosalind, was played by Honor’s real-life mother, Tilda Swinton. Hogg’s next project, Eternal Girl, now available in theaters and on demand, is a movie he’s been considering making for a long time. Set closer to the present at Christmas, the film is about a mother and daughter visiting an old hotel and reviewing sometimes tense memories together. Hogg knew someone wanted to tell a story about coming to terms with the mortality and vulnerability of their parents. However, towards the end of its development, he decided to name the characters Julie and Rosalind, suggesting that these characters were older versions. Memory characters.

“I played with that thought—is this a good idea? This is not the third part of a trilogy,” Hogg told me. Eternal Girl. “But they had so many characters back then that it seemed pointless to create other names for those characters at a later stage in their lives. It didn’t feel right. Names are really important in movies.” He chuckled when I told him he was creating a kind of “Hogg-verse”. The idea of ​​a movie series set within a massive story has become the norm for studio blockbusters, but it’s a concept that more independent directors, especially those with comic book leanings, are fond of: Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, M. Night Shyamalan.

Still, Hogg created an arthouse version almost by accident, and the continued experimentation feels more literal in nature. Nevertheless Eternal Girl Considering that Hogg has once again cast his longtime friend Tilda Swinton, it’s fascinating to consider the film’s connections to her past work and her own life. This time Swinton plays a dual role: both Julie and Rosalind. Julie is now a more established artist and fond of Rosalind in her old age.

When Hogg first wrote Eternal Girl In 2008, he felt too close to the material for filming at the time. “I tried to do it at the time but I felt so sorry for my mother,” she said. “We often took trips together in hotels, sometimes to stay with relatives, and so this was taken directly from our experience with him.” Like Julie in the movie, Hogg felt guilty for recreating such a fresh moment in a real-life relationship. Thus, the director explored family tensions in other ways through his art, and some of his ideas archipelago and then Memory movies, at what point mom Eternal Girl He was beginning to transform into Rosalind. “There was something about Rosalind. souvenir it was very interesting for me and for Tilda,” Hogg said. [the delay] It made it possible to go a little further.”

The other big change he made from the 2008 project mentality was turning it into a ghost story. The hotel where Julie and Rosalind are staying is devoid of other guests and the hallways are filled with eerie sounds and ghosts. “ghost story [element] It really was partly because my mother was getting older and thinking a lot more about mortality, both for myself and for her,” Hogg said. He was still alive when I was shooting the movie… so I still had to face this thing. what will he think? Shall I show him? But then, unfortunately, he died while we were editing.”

This loss is a melancholy coda of Hogg’s initial concern about making. Eternal Girl. But during our conversation, I felt that the director was most inspired when he used his background to tell stories. “Strangely enough, [it] replaces real memories. Or it becomes a mix of memory and reality,” he said of his style of storytelling, where names can be changed but certain scenes feel raw and distinctly honest, as if they were ripped from his mind and beamed onto the screen. MemoryHogg explored an old relationship, and in the sequel, he dramatized his attempt to make a movie about that relationship in his youth – a piece of self-reflection so complex that it distorts reality into something, more like a hall of mirrors. cinematically appealing.

“I find it very difficult to move away from this transmission of my life or experience and work. But I guess as a creator I need to have some basis of truth in everything I do,” Hogg admitted. Still, he said it was Swinton’s idea to play both roles, partly because the actor felt similarly connected to the material.Over the years the duo talked about their mother and their experiences of feeling like strangers in their own family. Eternal Girl in a largely soft tone, filled with the kind of English suspense Hogg specializes in – awkward pauses and sounding chatter that treads on tiptoe around deeper, darker emotions. Inside Eternal GirlJulie and Rosalind are clearly close, but Julie is also worried about her mother’s fragility and is failing her by seeking an artistic life instead of a more traditional family-centered life.

Setting the movie for Christmas only adds to that anxiety. “The pressure to be happy and cheerful is really unbearable,” Hogg said. “Both can’t name what’s really going on – that’s the unbearable part for me, that situation where you feel something or know something inside but can’t articulate it.” Although Julie and Rosalind love each other, they both fear the end; Julie is afraid of losing her mother and Rosalind is afraid of dying. “Nobody wants to talk about mortality, and I’m sorry I never had that talk with my mom until now,” Hogg continued. “I was so scared of this… I didn’t want to upset him by bringing up the subject. But it would be on his mind, and maybe talking about it would put him at ease. But that didn’t happen.”

Hogg has a special process for making raw emotions more dramatically nuanced and naturalistic in all of his films. He doesn’t use a typical script while filming. Instead, he writes a plot “document” that reveals the story structure, visual ideas, and character backstories; most of the dialogue is improvised on the day of shooting. For Eternal GirlHogg thought his approach wouldn’t work, given that Swinton was both playing the main characters and was almost always on screen. “But it worked and Tilda was able to improvise as one character and then the other character and keep the meaning of the scene,” he said. The movie is not based on the usual Parent Trap–style camera trick to have both characters on screen; instead, it largely isolates them within the frame, even if they are together in the room.

Hogg said that composing the scenes in this way helps audiences “see Julie and Rosalind as individuals,” and Swinton’s ability to embody them. “I still see them as different people and I don’t look ‘This Tilda twice,’ and leave,” Hogg said. The two have known each other since Swinton was 10 and Hogg was 11 (both are now 62 years old); In 1986, Swinton was the star of Hogg’s student thesis movie. whim, an exciting watch to date. When I asked Hogg what Swinton was like as a kid, he laughed. “I don’t know how much we’ve changed. It’s amazing to have known someone for so long even if you haven’t been working with them,” she said. “It’s really nice that we’re both going to present something we’ve done together. And we’ve had our challenges and our challenges over the years… but our friendship was so stable. ”

It is unknown whether Rosalind or Julie will return for Hogg’s next project, but whatever the director pursues from now on will at least have some connection to her other films. “I won’t say much more, but it’s tempting to stick with some names from the past,” Hogg said. “I enjoy connections. And I’m always making diagrams when I’m working on the structure. A kind of diagram could be made that connects all the movies… It’s kind of a one-piece job, and it will continue to be.” The one-of-a-kind Hogg verse remains, and with each film it solidifies its status as one of the most important cinematic contributions of recent history.

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