45 Years is a British drama based on the short story “In Another Country” by David Constantine, and well adapted by Andrew Haigh. It follows a couple whose 45 years of marriage is shattered when the wife finds out about another person who has an indelible impact in her seemingly happy marriage. It’s about a man who is devastated by the loss of his ex-girlfriend, who he still dearly loves despite having stayed married to his wife for so many years.
The entire film would not have been so great if Andrew Haigh would not come up with the idea to add more into the story written by Constantine. It is, I must admit, not an easy film to watch. But surely, it’s something we all must do if we want to be a bit wiser.
During the Toronto International Film Festival that took place in 2015, I was pleased to get a few minutes with Andrew Haigh to discuss the matter of the film, and go deep into the story itself, which I am sure will touch everyone deeply.
MOVIEMOVESME: There’s many things in the movie that’s been added by you with respect to David Constantine’s short story. Can you talk about the development of the movie?
Andrew Haigh: I read the short story five years ago and it struck a chord with me. The story was short and simple, you had to add to that to make it into a film. I loved the central idea of body in the ice and how that affects a relationship in the present. The key thing was to put it from a woman’s perspective, which I thought was really interesting. So many films are from the male perspective and the wife is by the side and that’s it. It made sense to me to tell it from her perspective. Women can have those existential crises about their relationships and lives as well, so it just made sense. And it was kind of adding to the structure of the anniversary party, lowering their ages a little bit, just about bringing all of the themes and try to dramatize them in a different way.
MOVIEMOVIESME: Can you talk about the making of the fabulous scene of the loft and where Kate goes upstairs and starts looking at the picture?
Andrew Haigh: It was such an interesting scene and I knew I wanted both to be in the same shot so I didn’t want to cut between. I wanted this almost ghost story element where she’s gone up in the attic like it’s a horror film, she’s seeing these family slides and I wanted it to be really slow. You can see the dread slowly and slowly rising in Charlotte’s face. And the images appearing out of the blackness, it’s almost like they’re becoming the same person, it’s very strange, almost as if she’s looking at her past self or a possible self. I think we were quite lucky with the location, it’s effective and Charlotte’s amazing in that scene. It’s powerful.
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the idea behind Geoff’s fickle minded, varying character?
Andrew Haigh: I loved the idea because I do think at times men do that a lot when they get older, looking back and regretting they’re not young and vibrant man they used to be. Men have a lot of issues trying to understand their role in society. I loved the idea that he was nice and quiet to start with then suddenly when the past starts re-emerging, it invigorates him and that’s exciting for him but challenging for Kate to try dealing with it. I like that he’s more agile, he starts to swim, gets political again. So I like that kind of contradiction.
MOVIEMOVESME: Was there any part of the screenplay which you wanted to emphasize on for the viewer to appreciate?
Andrew Haigh: It’s always very hard to try to balance between how much information you give and how subtle you want to be. For me it was making sure that the audience, for a lot of the film, can make up their own interpretation. They’re watching from the outside, essentially this woman falling apart but desperately trying to keep it together. I think Kate is forcing all of this information down and deeper but can’t help herself, wanting to find out, wanting to ask those questions, going up to the attic. I think it was really interesting and it was trying to make that come across as much in silences as in conversations as well.
MOVIEMOVESME: Is there any other interpretation you would like to share with the readers?
Andrew Haigh: I love what is always so good about films is if they are open to audience’s own interpretation. I love the idea that I don’t want the film to be totally clear cut, so I want the audience to watch the film and enjoy it in the moment. Then it can continue afterwards. I want them to go home, think about it, I want it to come back into people’s minds. If you open up things in the film and don’t give easy answers, then it means that the film will live longer in someone’s brain. That’s what I always want, wanting the film to exist for more than the 95 minutes it’s on screen for.