I have to ask about THAT graveyard scene. There was definitely a level of uncomfortability when watching that scene and it made me question what else could have been removed that we weren’t privy to as we rarely see the whole cut. What other scenes of that level were removed from the final cut?
Firstly, that’s a really interesting question because nothing was taken out. Everything that is in the film, everything that is at its most sort of complicated and transgressive is in the film because it’s supposed to be. It wasn’t about what I as a filmmaker could get away with or anything like that, it was much more about like, what felt true to the character and what felt true to the sort of gothic tradition and I’m always keen to remind people of that when they question it.
It is troubling, it’s about grief. It is about the horror of grief and the horror of love. It comes directly from the Gothic tradition because there’s a scene in Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books of all time, where Heathcliff digs down to get to Cathy’s coffin and the subtext is very much to do a similar thing. So what we have in the film is not completely outlandish given the genre. So much of Oliver’s desire cannot be sated, what he really wants it’s not possible, and even in the end it’s not possible. We have him getting a version of what he wants, but he’s still alone, he’s still there with the rocks and not the people. So it was really important for me that the scene held and was as long as it was. Obviously, there are a lot of questions about why didn’t we cut here or there, but for me it’s about sitting in the discomfort, sitting through the nervous laughter, through the horror, that’s part of it. Why cut when we have it, why cut when we have an actor dedicated enough to make this as strange and devastating and intimate as it is? Why cut when you’re seeing something you’ve never seen before that feels both horrifying and profoundly real in an awful way?
Everything I felt strongly about being in the movie is in the movie and to the studio’s credit they let it be there. I always feel that the grave scene, and a lot of scenes in this movie, people will either profoundly get it and profoundly love it, or they really dislike it and they dislike it for lots of kind of interesting reasons too. However, I always think that scene or that shot, as it’s a single shot over three minutes, is a shot that people will think about and remember and reference in years to come whether they like it now or not. I will always stand by it as being one of the best things about the film.