Feature: Interview with director Martin Radich
Following 2008’s Crack Willow, Martin Radich’s second feature film, Norfolk, is now playing in UK cinemas. It was screened at HOME on Monday, the 26th of September. Having heavily researched Radich, watching the majority of his previous work and scouring through the Norfolk press kit, I was pleased to briefly meet him before I saw the film for the first time.
“Set in Norfolk, amidst an idyllic, brooding landscape, an innocent teenage boy and his battle-weary father live a simple life. Days are spent hunting, fishing and daydreaming. Then out of nowhere, the father, a mercenary, is given a final deadly mission, one that threatens to destroy not just the target, but the love between a father and his son.”
Immediately after the screening, a table and chair were bought out for a Q&A with the audience in attendance at the screening. Radich was nervous — he shifted uncomfortably in his seat at every question fired at him. Going into our own interview, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, it was within these twenty minutes that I got to know the self-described “geezer from Blackpool who grew up on a council estate” that Martin Radich is.
We sit in the HOME lobby and discuss whether to switch venue because of the typically loud nature of the pub quiz. I begin by asking Martin why he is so different. I cite his early work; short films such as In Memory of Dorothy Bennett (1998)—for which he was nominated for a BAFTA—and A Good Man is Hard to Find (1999), both of which can be seen at martinradich.com. I ask him about his attempts to include the sounds of the landscape of Norfolk into the film’s script, for example spelling words phonetically in order to “describe how the world might sound” as well as why, despite his fond childhood memories of Norfolk’s “serenity”, he had chosen it as the backdrop of this “haunting thriller”.
Martin blames Blackpool. He describes his younger years as spent watching films he had rented from video stores. “Every weekend was like a kaleidoscope”, full of “curious eccentric stories”. He claims to “know no genres” because of this.
But it is Blackpool itself that seems to have had such an impact on Martin. He describes a certain romance surrounding the city, in the sense of how it “attracts disparate people” who “migrate […] from across the country”, people “who haven’t quite figured themselves out”. He cites this as what keeps drawing him back to the city as a point of reference for his work; yet he doesn’t seem to recommend taking a visit.
As another pub quiz question booms across the lobby, we both agree that having a Q&A here makes the conversation seem even more fitting in regards to the “scarred and jagged” atmosphere that Radich describes himself as having both risen from, and currently living within. It’s this profile of Radich which is important to build in order to better understand Norfolk.
Denis Ménochet (playing man) is recognisable from the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds, acting alongside Christopher Waltz. Martin tells me about how he wanted to insert a sense of “ambiguity” in regards to Ménochet’s man. It was maintaining this “equilibrium of ambiguity” that Radich describes as one of the biggest challenges in regards to crafting the film.
Yet although Ménochet and Barry Keoghan (playing boy) lead Norfolk on screen, it becomes clear to me that it is Martin who has overseen this creative and collaborative process. In a previous interview, it is clear that he appreciates the value of cinema beyond the screen—“I want to listen to a story that might say something to me, that might educate me, that might offer up an alternative approach to a conundrum”.
I ask Martin what he thinks the point of the film is: “It’s about the idea of communication […] mistakes are made because of an inability to communicate.” In retrospect, this is obvious. This story is well-constructed with a clear beginning, middle, and end—and that’s actually quite satisfying, with the ending as a clear highlight.
You can find the Norfolk trailer on Vimeo. For details of all UK screenings, visit norfolkthefilm.com.