Interview with Niall McCann – Director of The Science of Ghosts – Part 2 – by Killian Laher
Continues from Part 1 here.
Nomoreworkhorse caught up with film director Niall McCann around the release of The Science of Ghosts, his latest film which is about Adrian Crowley.
I found the film a bit confusing to be honest, definitely not your standard music film.
It’s not really a documentary. It’s a film about a musician, and his music’s in there. You mightn’t learn a lot of hard facts about Adrian Crowley. But I think you get a good sense of him. What interests me is, what do you do to someone when you ask them to open up to an audience like that?
He certainly seemed to embrace the concept.
He enjoyed this idea of ‘playing himself’. He’s got a good face for cinema and that always helps. It was supposed to be the finish of a trilogy (along with Art Will Save The World, Lost In France). It was a real shame that no one got to see Art Will Save The World (McCann’s film about Luke Haines which didn’t come out). That was a big learning curve. There are more important things in life than movies.
Yes, but movies can act as a relief for people from the stresses of life.
Well, you’re a massive music fan, people say that’s not important, but it is. Music is the ultimate art form. I suppose that’s why I make films about musicians, I wanted to be one. So I’m trying to undermine this idea that you should make a straight narrative film about someone’s life. Life is so complicated and weird, and each of our world views are so subjective. What we think is the truth is subjective. The recurring poem in it, The Elephant and The Blind Men, is written by an American poet. It’s a poem about an ancient Indian parable where each of the blind men in a village touch an elephant, and they all think it’s something different, they touch a different part. Each of them thinks they are right and the others are wrong. It’s the idea of an unreliable narrator, but also how we only have part of the truth. To remind people that when they are watching a film, its someone’s idea of someone else. It’s not even pure, we’re cutting, we’re editing. There’s a line in the film that “every edit is a lie” which is a Jean-Luc Godard line.
So there are a couple of layers to the film?
There’s nothing wrong with reminding people that life is something that cinema probably can’t encapsulate as a true representation. But once you acknowledge that and make the audience aware of that, then you can tell a story. They know it’s not objective. But some people do think that what they see on screen is the real thing, that can lead to problems down the line.
People don’t question things so much these days, they don’t have the time. There’s so much coming at them.
We’re all upset a lot of the time. I was watching the Tonight show and Donald Trump was saying how teachers should have guns in classrooms… is this real? Seriously? So it is worrying. I have to admit that, while I am mellowing and growing up, I’m thinking a lot more about dying. That’s made me a bit more humble in a way. I don’t want to be so angry about stuff either.
It’s a fine line, you don’t want to lose your edge.
No you don’t. You don’t want to fall into the trap where nothing really matters. You can’t live like that, thinking about death all the time. I’m trying not to fall into the trap where you think: all films are pointless. Other than personal relationships, it’s the only thing that makes me happy, that makes me proud.
When you think about it, how cinema enforces this idea of linearity, and how we think about time is completely constructed. We are born and then we live and then we get older, decay and die. It’s like that line in the film: “what does remembering look like?”. What is memory? My head is like the film I’ve made, and it’s confusing. I was thinking about Raging Bull and Peter Bradshaw called Robert de Niro’s performance the greatest ever male actor to win an Oscar. I was thinking about the scene in it when he’s younger, with his brother at the pool and he meets the woman he’s going to marry. The feeling in that scene, it has a feeling of… fleeting memory. I was thinking about how that scene makes me feel about my own childhood, I don’t know how I got this far away from it so quickly. I’d love to go back, but you can’t. I have a problem living in the present sometimes!