Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: The Ones Below

Magazine article Screen International

Set Report: The Ones Below

Article excerpt

David Farr's feature directorial debut, The Ones Below, is a study of contemporary London, the loneliness of motherhood and the anxiety of the modern world. Wendy Mitchell visits the set.

Theatre veteran David Farr's first feature came to him in a dream. He was in the midst of directing a Pinter play, and he remembers, "I was thinking about the anxieties of parenthood. I went to bed with a feeling of anxiety and maybe Pinter's ghost was in the room... I woke up with an idea in its skeletal structure."

Farr, the father of two daughters, says he came up with a film that is essentially "about the loneliness of motherhood and the strange loneliness in big cities". That early idea evolved into The Ones Below's story of Kate (Clémence Poésy) and Justin (Stephen Campbell Moore), a disconnected couple expecting their first baby who live on the top floor of a north London house; Jon (David Morrissey) and Teresa (Laura Birn) move in below, and are also expecting a baby. Following a tragic accident, the couples' lives become intertwined with disastrous consequences.

'It's a psychological suspense: it deals in terror not horror'David Farr, film-maker

Farr has been working in theatre for 20 years; he also wrote the screenplay for Joe Wright's Hanna and after that BBC Films told him: "You should think about your first movie."

He first made the short Coolbox with the backing of BBC Films and the BFI Film Fund, and both were so impressed they came on board this first feature. Protagonist handles sales and Icon has already snapped up UK rights.

Farr does not speak like a typical first-time film-maker, nor does he sound like a novice. He confesses to knowing more about film than theatre despite his background. "I'm a fan of European arthouse suspense films like those by Chabrol, Polanski, Haneke. I sit in that European tradition."

He sees The Ones Below as "dark in some ways" but more as "deeply anxious... It explores certain paranoias".

It's not a blood-and-guts type of thriller. "It's a psychological suspense; it deals in terror not horror. Horror is something external like a zombie. Terror is something from within," he says.

It is also showing a side of modern London not often seen on screen. "Other than Nic Roeg, England hasn't been making genre films set in normal life. In France you have hundreds of them," he says. "I wanted to do something about the new London; it's not about class."

The next stage

Producer Nikki Parrott, who has most recently been concentrating on documentaries and documentary hybrids at Tigerlily Films, praises Farr's collaborative nature, his vision for the film and excellent script. …

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