This Saturday the UCD Imagine Science Film Festival will screen One Hundred Mornings, a new film by one of Ireland’s leading filmmakers: writer and director Conor Horgan. He is known for such films as The Beholder, Croke Park Lives, About Beauty, and now his new film, One Hundred Mornings, which received the Special Jury Honourable Mention at Slamdance 2010, Best Sci-Fi Film at Rhode Island International Film Festival 2010, the IFTA for best Director of Photography and the Irish Playwrights & Screenwriters Guild Best Feature Script 2010.
The film explores the psyche of two warring couples as they struggle against the wake of a mass societal breakdown in Ireland. Overwhelmed by feelings of isolation and fear, they are still driven to survive. The film disturbs, and simply examines the humanity within all of us, leaving us questioning how far we would go in order to live.
In a society that is increasingly reliant on modern technology and the way in which we often take for granted valuable commodities, One Hundred Mornings is increasingly relevant. It asks how communication has transformed by technology and the effect this has on our ability to function autonomously. Now, with an increasing number of ways to interact via social networking, we find that more people feel disconnected. The feature is a slow burning drama, but nonetheless it’s message will remain with the audience.
The film perhaps asks those present to re-examine their daily interactions with people in society, a subject that will be further explored in a panel discussion about empathy. Panelists will include Conor Horgan, UK Director Alex Gabbay, and Professor Dr Christian Keysers, author of The Empathic Brain whose research will challenge our understanding of human nature.
Though we never find out the cause of the societal breakdown, the clear aftermath leaves it up to the imagination, as we try to imagine ourselves surviving at all.
Conor Horgan was kind enough to share his inspiration for One Hundred Mornings with festival volunteer Natasha Waugh in the interview below.
NATASHA WAUGH: How did you come up with the concept for One Hundred Mornings?
CONOR HORGAN: I’d been reading a lot about the gap between the available resources and the rate at which we’re using them and the different ways in which society falls down for whatever reason. One of the original influences was a Margaret Atwood talk in which she said any species, which outgrows its resources, won’t survive. I was also interested in morality having its own plasticity. Its totally defined by the situation we find ourselves in and our situation changes so our morality changes. I’ve introduced the films to various audiences around the world and you always say write about what you know, but I wrote something that scared me.
NW: We never find out what has happened for society to break down.
CH: That was a deliberate thing. I didn’t want to get into an internal debate with my audience. The film just says look, it happened. The situation is there, the situation is obvious; society has broken down. The cause of that situation is never explicit and is not as interesting as what we might do in the event of any kind of a societal break down. There’s no power, there’s bread truck arriving on a Monday morning.
NW: Do you think it’s a realistic vision of a societal breakdown?
CH: Yeah, absolutely. That was something I felt I could do. I had limited resources when I did the film and I thought well, we could make a film about the absences of things, rather than the presence of things. And to take electricity out of it made things immediately more interesting. We now live in a society where you need electricity to look at your photographs amongst many other things. So, a world in which the basic infrastructure breaks down. When I was doing research I found out that when things do breakdown, even temporarily, it’s really hard to get them back up again. And even in Ireland, if the power grid goes down, its very hard to get the thing going again. They have a one shot chance if they have any juice over or fuel left over, they need to drop all the water from the hydroelectric station in Turloc Hill and if that doesn’t work as a starter plug for the national grid, we’re fucked! So, I set out as realistic an experience for how media savvy, tech savvy, people might get on in this world and I don’t think the world that I put those people into or put us into it’s not a fantastic world, its not a unrealistic view of what it might be like, I think it’s a very realistic view.
NW: You mentioned your budget; did you find it was easier to have this sparse world on a small budget as apposed to a film that has a large budget?
CH: Not really, because I thought I was being clever writing this film that could be set largely around one location, but we needed to find that one location; it couldn’t be near streetlights, it couldn’t be near busy roads, it couldn’t be near any cattle. It had to be really remote and it had to look good, it had to look right and be big enough to shoot in and all these thing, so it actually suddenly became the hardest working location in Ireland because we didn’t have the funds to build it. Finding the location alone took about 8 and half months.
NW: In what way did you want to affect your audience?
CH: I wanted to unsettle them. It does seem that it may have succeeded. Somebody took their girlfriend to see it at the Dingle Film Festival a couple of years ago and she came up to me about 6 weeks later and, quite irate, said ‘Conor Horgan, your fucking film has haunted me for the last 6 weeks’ and I was delighted, it was exactly what I hoping for. It’s not a feel good movie, obviously, its not a horror movie. It kind of dismayed some horror movie fans that thought it was a horror movie. I wanted people to go away and think about it, and it seems to be what has happened.
NW: It’s an interesting festival to show it at because it’s a festival that is predominantly focused on science.
CH: Absolutely. It’s on this panel that is largely concerned with empathy, so in some ways I find it very interesting how the guy who’s written the book on motor neurons, and the guy who’s made the documentary about empathy, will see my film because, in some senses my film is an example of lack of empathy, or a shutting down of empathy, or the avoidance of empathy and part of the problem of society now is that people are isolated from each other.
NW: During the writing process or the production process, did it affect you in any way?
CH: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it’s hard to divorce [yourself from the film], especially when you’re making it, but when you see the finished thing, with an audience. I’ve only seen it twice with an audience. The second time I saw it with audience was in America and I had this odd sensation as though I really had nothing to do with the film, and I was watching it as though I’d never seen it before and I had never heard about it before and I was experiencing it the way the audience was experiencing it, and that was really a remarkable experience for me. After that I thought, well you know what I need not ever see it again, and I don’t think I’ve watched it with an audience since.
NW: So, would you tend to avoid these kind of experiences?
CH: No, that was a good experience because I watched my own film as though I was a naive audience member, as though I didn’t know what was going to happen next. It moved me at times and unsettled me at other times. An Irish director friend of mine said, ‘Conor, it’s the kind of film you need to lean into a little bit’, and I took that as a huge compliment, because I really enjoy those kind of films, not every single time I go to the movies but there’s a really valid form of film that you do need to lean into, but if you lean into it its worth the effort, rather than sitting back in your chair and being spoon fed. You do have to work at it a little bit, but hopefully that little bit of work is its own reward and the film is enough reward for that.
One Hundred Mornings will be screened on July 14th, at 16:30 in the Lighthouse Cinema followed by a panel, as part of the UCD Imagine Science Film Festival.