RED ROAD written and directed by Andrea Arnold, with Kate Dickie, Tony Curran, Martin Compston, Nathalie Press and Andrew Armour. A Seville Pictures release. 113 minutes. Opens Friday (June 29). Rating: NNNN
Park City, Utah - Andrea Arnold sits with Kate Dickie in a sterile courtyard at a Park City hotel, probably dreading the next interview. Arnold directed and Dickie stars in Red Road, a raw-boned surveillance thriller that invites all kinds of questions about how these two women think about sex, violence and men.
Here I come.
In the film, Dickie plays Jackie, who works monitoring Glasgow's public security cameras and starts stalking a suspicious man she first sees on screen. It could have been simply creepy, but Arnold probes deeper wounds.
So what aspects of this character did she want to explore?
"I think they're there in the film, aren't they?" she practically snaps. "She's lonely."
Hmm, 18 minutes to go.
"You know, I don't start with that as I write," Arnold continues. "I start off with a character. I know what she wants to achieve and I write it scene by scene. I just send her after the thing she needs, and things come out of that. I found them as I went along."
Okay, she's talking process - safer ground than motivation. What about that wedding scene early on where we see Jackie try to navigate a boisterous family celebration?
"The wedding is the opposite of where she's at. She's lonely, and a wedding is full of families, full of people who are engaging with life and enjoying the moment. In both the wedding scenes I kept her very separate from the crowd. All those things are very deliberate, separating her from the life she's not a part of because of this thing that's happened to her."
And Arnold keeps that "thing" secret until near the end of Red Road. For most of the film, Jackie is a pinched cipher prone to compulsive acts, sudden sexual hunger and a heaving ocean of rage. She invites interpretation.
"When I was at film school," Arnold says, "they used to say that a good film was one where you didn't bring your own baggage, because everyone understood the same thing. But I actually like it when people bring their own baggage," she concludes, taking a lighter tone. "I think you have to, I think it's impossible not to."
Red Road's own baggage was flown in from Denmark. It's the first of three films co-produced by Zentropa, the company responsible for Lars von Trier. His cohorts Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen dreamed up a post-Dogme notion called The Advance Party, where three filmmakers take the same seven characters, played by the same seven actors, but build entirely different stories around them. Morag McKinnon and Mikkel Nørgaard will follow Arnold's film.
"Filmmaking is about having boundaries," Arnold says, "and it's an organic, live process. It makes you think harder and be more creative. The Advance Party is just more of the same thing. You have to work with more boundaries and bounce off them.
"Also," she adds, "by having obstacles, you're forced to define what matters to you. You reinforce your essential ideas."
RED ROAD (Andrea Arnold) Rating: NNNN
Red Road won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year and five Scottish BAFTAs. If that doesn't impress, it's also the stalkiest film of the year!
Kate Dickie plays a woman withdrawn from life and into her job watching security video of Glasgow's streets. When she sees a man from her past, she sets about tracking him like an animal.
Director Andrea Arnold, who won an Oscar for her short film Wasp, revels in the anxiety of surveillance in the tradition of Hitchcock's Rear Window and Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation.
But Red Road's real achievement is its fascinating central character. Arnold's sense of female motivation is pitched somewhere between Jane Campion's and Asia Argento's, and that's a good place to be. CB