Hinterland: Harry Macqueen talks to Northern Soul
Northern Soul’s Kate Morris chats to rising star Harry Macqueen about his directorial and writing debut, Hinterland.
“Hinterland was made for quite a few reasons,” Macqueen tells me over a brew at Manchester’s HOME. “I think essentially I really like telling stories. I’d always been an actor and very happy to tell stories as a conduit to that, and I thought maybe I would like a shot at telling my own.
“I inherited £10,000 in a will and I didn’t really know what you do with £10,000 these days. It was a lot of money to me but you can’t buy a house with it, it’s not a down payment on a flat or whatever, so I guess I wanted to create something that would make the person that left me the money proud. That was the driving force.”
It’s clear on meeting Macqueen that the film is a labour of love. It premiered at the Raindance Film Festival last year and, since then, this simple story of two old friends who decide to get out of the city for the weekend has garnered critical praise aplenty. Essentially, it’s a low-budget, low-key British road movie. The Telegraph was fulsome in its praise, saying that “few recent homegrown debuts have better captured the promise of fresh starts, and the disappointments that lurk in wait behind them”.
Given his passion for the project, I ask Macqueen if the main character, played by him, is autobiographical. “I wouldn’t say the film is based on me or my life exactly, but rather on human interaction.”
He adds that Richard Linklater, the award-winning director and screenwriter, is a big influence.
“I think there’s something inherently beautiful in the way he makes films because not only is he hugely eclectic, but he doesn’t give a monkeys about what people think about his films, he just wants to make eclectic movies and they’re always about people. He’s a good example of someone who really focuses on the dynamic of human relationships and how humans interact. I think that inspired me more than anything else, and just wanting to make a film that was really honest about a delicate little relationship.”
Despite no prior experience in writing or directing, Macqueen dominates the credits as author, producer, director and star. “I think it was probably a bit foolhardy to jump straight into directing and I should probably point out I wasn’t meant to be in the film, it wasn’t my initial plan in the slightest. I was in the film in the end for loads of different reasons, most of them out of my control such as the budget.”
However, the financial constraints proved to be a useful framework and allowed Macqueen to make more creative decisions.
He says: “There is a lot of freedom in not having any freedom. Having parameters and having things you have to stick to helps creativity hugely. This project was definitely something that could only have existed from us keeping our eyes on the prize and to keep falling in love with the story we wanted to tell.”
And what story was Macqueen trying to tell exactly?
“I think the film for me is about the unsaid. It’s about what people can’t express. I think most of the time, if not all the time, when we are interacting with people the truth of the matter isn’t always what we’re saying, it’s what we’re not saying. It’s how we cross our legs or how we do this with our hands. And the great thing about films is that they can tap into that, way more than any other medium can.”
This idea of the ‘unsaid’ resonates throughout the film, thanks in large part to the stunning cinematography by Ben Hickling, who, according to Macqueen, “was another big part of the process”.
“We just chimed. We liked the same aesthetic and both knew the film was going to be an exercise of composition over camera movements. With the complicated logistics of being in the film as well as directing you have to put a lot of trust in who is shooting the film and Ben was amazing.”
So, what about the ending?
“The film doesn’t have any rounded-up ending. It doesn’t tell you what happens, and that’s important to me because it means the audience are collaborating with me.”
For upcoming screenings across the country, click here
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Supported by funding from @HeritageFundUK, Betty’s Back! will explore James’s life and works in the context of the 1920s, when the portrait was painted, and will also reveal artwork by Betty Durden Green for the first time.