Interview with Couple in a Hole director Tom Geens
Couple in a Hole, is a British/French Drama and will hit cinemas April 8th. It is directed by Tom Geens, a Belgian film maker marking his second feature and stars former Game of Thrones actor Kate Dickie aka Lysa Arryn. To promote the film, Tom Geens was available to be interviewed and was more than happy to answer any questions.
*** Warning, there are spoilers ***
Tom, some people may see this as a tamer version of Lars Von Triers Antichrist. Was that film any form of inspiration to write Couple in Hole?
There may be a comparison to parents grieving over the death of their son. Furthermore there is also a sense of the parents entering nature and using nature for healing, however I never thought of Antichrist at the time I wrote it, as I wrote it in 2009. It wasn’t until many other critics commented on this that I realised its similarities.
Apparently it took five years to make. Tell me about the difficulties of raising finance for an independent feature.
Zorana Piggott was a producer I knew. Although she’s very well established, we were unsure of working together as she thought it was a film that was hard to classify or be pigeon holed in a certain genre. When she did come around to the idea it took us a long time to raise the finance, but eventually she raised £750,000 as the UK film council helped us develop this feature and she in due course also got some funding from the BFI.
Were there any other actors you had in mind to play the two Scottish leads?
Casting overall is difficult. I saw few people and although they were brilliant, there was some reluctance when they realised what they had to do. But the fact that both leads were Scottish was a complete fluke as they would go well together and they have worked with each other before. In regards to Kate Dickie’s role, when I saw her, I realised there were no other contenders necessary for the role. I knew I wanted her as seeing her performance in Red Road was amazing. It’s a performance that stands out to me more than her acclaimed role on Game of Thrones.
What’s your style of direction to push Kate Dickie to her level of madness?
You must customise for the actor and talk to each other. Allowing her to build up on what she is given in my direction is essential. The fact that she was up for everything demonstrates how confident she was to follow my direction.
Have you known or heard of anyone that has resulted to agoraphobia due to death of a child? Were any of the characters factual based?
There was nothing factual based on Couple in a Hole. I wanted to show the contrast of civilisation and nature. It is all based on pure imagination. Nonetheless it is known that this phobia is one of the elements that can be induced by trauma.
Do you believe the rules of film making of to show rather than tell are a very important element as this is what we see in the first 30 mins of the film? The mainstream viewer may not appreciate that unless an audience member is prepared to be challenged?
To show rather than tell is a very powerful source as it allows viewers to put a puzzle together. You don’t have to have characters speak all the time as it lacks imagination.
I saw a glimpse of a snake eating a mouse in the field. Are these metaphors to what will happen with the characters in the latter part of the film?
There is a scene where a kid looks at a snake eating a mouse, but what I believe is it shows how a child looks at the world with detachment. It’s not a foreshadow. I wanted to show the environment of the Pyrenees Mountains and how the world is big with animals. It can be based on an Adam and Eve fable or can convey magic realism.
Do you think the character of Karen would have eventually recovered if John had protected her the way she wanted?
Even if John would’ve protected her, I believe that Karen would’ve stayed in her territorial hole no matter what. She wants to take care of her son even in his death and nothing will stop her from that.
Is guilt and conscience an important theme in the film as the character of Andre feels this towards their son?
Possibly! It was important for characters to have a motivation and this was the motivation of Andre as he feels responsible for the death of their son. I wanted his motivation to structure towards a collision course. The clash between the Scottish couple and the French couple will create believable characters thus creating tension and effect.
Thank you so much and best of luck with the film. It’s a great addition to independent cinema.