Clio Barnard has been a powerful indie force on the British film scene since her 2010 debut The Arbor, a stunningly unique portrait of playwright Andrea Dunbar. She followed it up with The Selfish Giant, highlighting the poorest parts of England, and now alights on a similar topic—albeit in wildly different circumstances—with her distinct third film, Dark River, which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this week.
The drama, led by a blistering performance by Ruth Wilson, also stars Game of Thrones alums Mark Stanley and Sean Bean, and relates the tale of a woman who returns to the family farm in the wake of her father’s death, who must struggle with her reasons for leaving and the question of who will take over tenancy on the struggling farm. The film is based on Rose Tremain’s novel Trespass.
Barnard joined Wilson at Deadline’s Toronto studio this week to discuss the film. It began, she said, as a faithful adaptation of Tremain’s novel. “And then the financiers asked me to make it mine. It kind of grew away from the novel and ended up, in a way, being inspired by the novel.”
The director and her star consulted psychologists to tap into the emotion of memory Wilson’s character is forced to grapple with. “How do you get inside somebody’s head on film? I think what Ruth is very brilliant at is nuance and rigor, really, and being very present and very strong and vulnerable simultaneously.”
Wilson described Barnard as a visual poet. “There was something very pure about these two and about this connection. Already poetry was coming off the page, and I knew Clio was going to do something special with it, so I just wanted to work with her and be in that world.”
See more from Barnard and Wilson in the video above.
Deadline Studio at TIFF 2017 is presented by Calii Love, Watford Group, Philosophy Canada, and Equinox. Special thanks to Dan Gunam at Calii Love for location and production assistance; and Ontario Camera for equipment assistance. Video producer: Meaghan Gable; lighting and camera: Neil Hansen; design: Dialla Kawar; sound recording: Ida Jokinen.