While the Brits got to take in Rowan Joffe's (who penned scripts for 28 Weeks Later and The American, among others) Brighton Rock early this year, us Yankees only saw the film drop in theaters last August. WhatCulture! got to speak to Joffe during the UK release HERE, where we also reviewed the film HERE. Now, this writer's had a chance to speak with Joffe about the difficulties of adapting Graham Greene's classic novel and where he feels the film fits in a four quadrant-dependent culture. WC: For starters, we were wondering, why an adaptation, and in a way, a remake?
Rowan Joffe: I dont know, I must some sort of suicidal instinct. I mean, its one thing adapting a classic novel its another thing adapting a novel, its another thing adapting an enormously popular novel, its another thing still adapting a classic novel, something of a literary talent, and its another thing entirely adapting a classic novel thats also been adapted into a classic film. It is in fact sheer lunacy and the only explanation that I can come up with is, it really is like falling in love with someone you shouldnt fall in love with, no matter how many people tell you its going to end in tears, you go through with anyway, because there is some confounding attraction even if my debut film was trashed by a lot of angry critics and my career never recovered, Id still wanted to do it, and I wanted to do it because I fell in love with the idea.
OWF: Do you think your version of Brighton Rock is more influenced by the 1947s adaptation or the novel itself?
RJ: I didnt want to inflame the sensibilities of any already inflamed critics, it is my experience amongst British critics that it wasnt the I was competing with, it was their memory of the film. I dont believe a single critic sat down and watched my movie back-to-back with the Boulting brothers movie and objectively compared the two. What happened was, they watched my movie and compared that with their memory, their recollection, their nostalgia for the original movie. Which is a little bit like comparing a current wife with the ghost of a diseased wife you cant compare because the unreal one, the memory, the abstraction, the fantasy, become perfect it becomes the most perfect movie ever made. In fact, the truth of it is, the Boulting brothers movie is long-winded, complicated, boring and dated and the reason why it has such popular place in, especially, British critics minds is that it was a landmark performance by Sir Richard Attenborough and that is certainly true, no one had really delivered anything like that in British film. Britain was making shit films at the time, it was making post-war sucky romantic films in 1947, and Brighton Rock really stood out. Thats really what I was up against, I realized, I was up against not the original, I was up against the perceived original.
OWF: How do you feel your film fits into the current filmmaking climate?
RJ: Oh boy, well, thats a good question. The current filmmaking climate seems to me to be more four-quadrant oriented that it has ever been in my lifetime. When I was a kid, the idea that there would be a movie called Cowboys & Aliens - that would be a serious cinematic enterprise, would have felt like a joke, it would felt like something that harked back to a B-movie in the early 60s. And I understand from that I havent seen that movie, it may well be a fantastic movie, Im not criticizing it, but Im just saying I feel that its a perhaps a more commercial climate in my lifetime. So Im not sure where Brighton Rock fits. My hope is this its a thriller, its got some great action sequences in it, its a very visual movie, its got a great score, its got a good cast, and also its part gangster thriller, part love story so in my tiny head, its four-quadrant . But whether or not the public see it that way, Im sure Im being hopelessly naïve.
OWF: One more question the film features some impressive cinematography what were some films you watched as reference? One film that jumped into our heads was Night of the Hunter.
RJ: Wow, well, Im certainly a fan of Night of the Hunter, but Id say that the more obvious references to Brighton Rock were a lot of film noir, I read about film noir, and actually, in a sense, we didnt have any complicated or particularly highfalutin noir references, what we actually did at the end of the day is we decided to shoot the movie with some of the equipment that the movie wouldve been shot on in the 60s in Britain, so John Mathieson got hold of a range of equipment, and it immediately gave the film a period feel. Really, the main visual influence is the novel, a thriller but also a gothic fairy tale, we wanted everything to feel a little larger than life, a little more intense and colorful and surreal and perverse and dark than real life, and thats what John Mathieson and production designer James Merifield really managed to put on the screen is a gothic fairy tale for a kind of contemporary and ultimately, a love story between a demon and an angel, thats what weve thought about it all, is a love story.
OWF: Thank you very much for your time. Brighton Rock is available on DVD in the UK NOW.