List Film

Joanna Hogg explains how she made her second feature film Archipelago

British filmmaker returns with perceptive account of family holiday

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Island life

Joanna Hogg’s debut feature Unrelated was lauded as one of the most distinctive British films of recent years. She returns to cinema screens with Archipelago, a highly perceptive account of an upper-middle class family on holiday in the Scilly Isles. Patricia and her two grown up children, Tom and Cynthia, are spending time together before Tom heads to Africa for a year. In this context, Hogg captures the minutiae of social interactions with a raw realism that gradually draws in its audience, creating an absorbing picture of the complexities of family life.

Unsurprisingly, given Hogg’s distinct style, her inspirations are far-reaching. ‘I’ve been influenced quite a bit by filmmaking from South Korea, Taiwan, lots of different places that wouldn’t seem like obvious ports of call for a British filmmaker,’ she says. ‘I find myself drawing on other art forms too, I might go and see an art exhibition and that sparks off an idea. I also find literature very inspiring. Jane Austen is an obvious one: she’s a fantastic observer of everyday life.’

For Archipelago the director, rather unusually, filmed in the order in which the story unfolds, the actors also slept in the house that they filmed in and she abandoned the rigid confines of working from a script. ‘I decided not to write a conventional screenplay and wrote what was more like a short story. Within that story I found I could be very precise in terms of how people are feeling and the observations I wanted to pick.’

She also took an alternative approach to casting, using both professional and non-professional actors. Amy Lloyd who plays Rose is a cook in real life, the same as her character, while the son is played by rising star Tom Hiddleston, who has recently been cast in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea.

As Archipelago progresses there are certain characters who appear far more likeable than others, yet Hogg maintains she is not taking a critical approach to her subject matter. ‘I try to not judge them and in a way I’m not interested in their background in terms of class,’ she says. ‘For me, it’s just about observing something and portraying it in as honest a way as possible. Some people will interpret a character as someone they are sympathetic to or not sympathetic to, it depends, in a way, on what the audience is bringing to the party.’

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