44 Inch Chest

by director Malcolm Venville

Hitchcock said that dialogue in film was photographs of people talking. I tried to keep that in mind when directing 44 Inch Chest. Simplicity in the photography was critical so that comprehension of the dialogue was achieved. The Louis Mellis and David Scinto dialogue is layered and I didn’t want the camera to interfere.

Balancing the performance with visuals was critical. Mood and atmosphere is everything. The arrangement of actors within frame according to their relevance was something I enjoyed. I looked at painters like Caravaggio in the way he arranged his subjects. The Godfather inspired me also, the way the father, the sons and consigliore were positioned within in such a way that reflected their power.

The root of 44 Inch Chest was forgiveness. Ray Winstone and I disagreed on this. He felt that Colin Diamond was a man incapable of revenge.  I believed that forgiveness was the only way that Colin Diamond could let go of his past and survive. More than anything what I liked about Ray was his effortless ability to connect with emotion with the least amount of fuss. The doors into his feelings are all open and it’s inspiring to watch him act. I’d say besides being a great emotional actor, he’s a technical actor because his relationship with the lens is so precise.

I’d grown up watching Ray Winstone in Scum and Quadrophenia. Then later in Nil By Mouth and so on. Ian McShane and John Hurt were always around. As a student I loved watching Joanne Whalley in The Singing Detective. To finally get them gathered on set was exciting.  What I discovered working with these actors is that all they want to know is that you understand the material. Then they can respect you.

What irritated me was the amount of men who told me in setting up the picture that the film was misogynistic when it was the complete opposite. It’s an anti-poetic view of love and marriage and of the danger of feelings.

I often thought that all the men in this story could be conceived as different shades of one man.

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