Peter Mackie Burns • Director of Rialto
“This man is brought through grief to a place where he doesn't know himself any more”
by Kaleem Aftab
- VENICE 2019: Peter Mackie Burns chatted to Cineuropa about his Orizzonti film Rialto, which has nothing to do with the bridge in Venice
Rialto [+see also:
interview: Peter Mackie Burns
film profile], the new film by Peter Mackie Burns, was unveiled in the Orizzonti section of the Venice Film Festival. The picture stars Tom Vaughan-Lawlor as a 46-year-old Dubliner whose life spirals out of control following the death of his father. The movie is an adaptation of Mark O'Halloran's stage play Trade.
Cineuropa: Your film is an adaptation of Mark O'Halloran's play Trade; what was it about the play that you liked?
Peter Mackie Burns: I never saw it.
So how did the project come to you?
The producer, Tristan Goligher, of The Bureau Films, worked with me before on my first movie, Daphne [+see also:
film profile]. He asked me, “Have you heard of this writer, Mark O'Halloran?” And I had because I'm a fan of the filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson and Mark, who wrote Adam and Paul and Garage [+see also:
interview: Ed Guiney
interview: Jean-François Deveau
interview: Lenny Abrahamson
film profile]. They are great movies. When I heard Mark was writing the screenplay, I was excited. I read the script, found it really enjoyable, and then I met him.
What was it about the screenplay that really struck you? Was it the story of grief, of a man at a loss?
I think it's all of those things. I love Anton Chekhov, and I know this sounds a bit highfalutin, but Raymond Carver and Chekhov are probably my favourite writers because they write about big things happening to everyday people. Here, this man's life is falling apart entirely over five days.
His dad dies, his marriage falls apart and he mentally abuses his son.
He destroys his son. What I thought was interesting about the script was that it’s about identity: this man is brought through grief to a place where he doesn't know himself any more. He becomes his own father, the person who bullied him; he becomes him. He takes on the role of the patriarch, perhaps unwillingly.
Is there an inevitability here?
I hope not. He's a father at the end of his rope, who meets a young man and becomes infatuated with him. He's not homosexual. What I thought was really interesting was that it's not about a man who is coming out, or who would even identify as gay or be gay in the future. I thought I had not seen a film like that before, where two men find an arena to talk.
It's also intriguing that both of these men who have sexual relations with each other have relationships with women.
And both are new fathers. The young character of Jay is an old-fashioned, straight-down-the-line bisexual character. In this arena, they are both fathers, they are father and son, and they are exploiter and exploited. I thought all of that stuff was interesting. As for Colm, the central character, he is lost.
In Daphne, there is also an aspect of a central character losing control of their own life, but that was a little more upbeat. Why didn’t you emphasise humour in this film?
I think there is humour in the movie, but it's a particular type of humour that's very Celtic. There is language wordplay, there is dark humour in it, and if you are from a Celtic background, you will recognise that.
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