2015 in film interviews

One of the great pleasures of working for Oh Comely – aside from the baked goods that materialise in the office with delicious regularity – is that I get to watch excellent films and then speak to the people who made them. Therefore, when asked to write about 2016 in cinema, I thought that instead of rounding up my favourite films of the year* I would instead share some of the film-maker interviews that I most enjoyed doing. I've cheated by also including an interview with Big Bird performer Carroll Spinney, but given that he tells an anecdote about the time he hugged Snuffleupagus so hard they both cried with joy, I hope you'll forgive me.

(*Spoiler for the results of that hypothetical event: Carol would win, with The Lobster, 45 Years and The Look of Silence tussling for silver. Have you seen Carol yet? Go and see Carol.)

Peter Strickland – The Duke of Burgundy

“For me, the film is about consent and how that veers into compromise and eventually coercion. Everyone likes to think they don't coerce their partner. Compromise is an issue within every element of a relationship, not just the sexual parts – if a couple decides to start a family, one person will possibly have to compromise on a job they might love. I'm not an agony aunt, but you can apply the film beyond the bedroom.”

Ruben Östlund – Force Majeure

“We have a culture today where we're allowed to put 99% of our time and concern into our relationships. There's something about this lifestyle that creates existential crises. We feel like love should be a problem, and we hear it in pop music over and over again. In movies, on television, it's all relationship challenges. As long as we have that kind of focus for our lives we won't be able to look at society's problems from a proper perspective. I wanted to question that.”

Caroll Spinney – I Am Big Bird

“I decided about two months in that he should be a child. For the first few months he was just a goofy guy, a real yokel. He'd become fairly popular just as a novelty, but when I made him a kid he suddenly embodied something that a lot of children could identify with: the struggle to be a child in an adult world.”

Olivier Assayas – Clouds of Sils Maria

“Juliette and I are friends but we're not that familiar or intimate – I've never known what her everyday life is like. I know her but I also fantasise her. I imagine things about her. Some of them are true, some are totally off the mark. So when I'm writing a character like Maria Enders I know that I'm playing with my own assumptions as well as the assumptions of the audience, the way the audience imagines her. I'm playing on this border between fiction and reality.”

Alecky Blythe – London Road

“We knew about the tragedies, which was a story that was clearly told in the media, but not the fallout. There were people who weren't in the eye of the storm whose lives had been affected too. Obviously this was to a much lesser degree than the family members of the victims, but I saw there were wider repercussions in the community that seemed to resonate. I was compelled by this, and these people wanted to share their experiences with me. It seemed like a story that wasn't being told.”

Desiree Akhavan – Appropriate Behaviour

“That's the worst: when you hold on to the nostalgia for a moment you had two hours ago, hoping that the person will go back to your first impression of them. That happens quite often and I don't see it depicted in movies. Films lied to me about sex, and everything I learned about sex until a certain age I'd learned from watching a movie. It wasn't a conversation I had with my parents or something I could find out on my own. When I finally started dating I realised I'd been fed fairytale lies about simultaneous orgasms and never-ending love. ”