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Director Conor Horgan, “One Hundred Mornings”

by on July 17, 2010
 

For his first feature, Conor Horgan wanted to tackle a film involving societal breakdown. That the final result was the quiet, understated film “One Hundred Mornings” is amazing given the massive number films under the umbrella of social anarchy.

Horgan spoke to The  Yap about “Mornings,” discussing the film, not telling the audience what has happened, and creating a film that is both universal and specific to a certain culture.

“One Hundred Mornings” plays the Indianapolis International Film Festival Thursday, July 22 at 8:30 p.m.

Check out our review of “One Hundred Mornings.”

The Yap: Where did the idea come for this film? What drew you to this idea?

The old saying goes that it’s good to write about what you know – I also think it’s good to write about what scares you, and the world we’ve created in One Hundred Mornings scares the hell out of me.  I’d been thinking about doing something about societal breakdown for some time, and when the opportunity arose to make my first feature film, this was what  I most wanted to do.  I’d read a lot about how the fabric of civilization is much more tenuous than we realize, which was shown very well by what happened in New Orleans after the hurricane.  I wrote the first draft of the script in a bit of a frenzy over four and a half months, and it didn’t substantially change after that.

The Yap: There’s a lingering sense of dread and despair throughout the film, but the characters really speak very little about it. How were you able to keep up this tension in this way?

A lot of what the film is about is the unsaid–what we all understand is going on, but for our own reasons don’t openly acknowledge. I wanted to use only as much dialogue as was absolutely necessary, and having so little helped the characters feel quite guarded with each other at times. As the film progresses it almost feels like they’re conserving energy by not talking too much. I worked a lot with the actors, always identifying tensions between the characters, and asked them not to try and be heroes or villains but to react as though they were themselves in the world of the film. They all lived together up in the mountains during the shoot, which also helped them feel that the world of the film was real and  helped to maintain the tension.

The Yap: Speaking of not talking about things, we get the sense that some kind of catastrophic event has taken place, but we never learn exactly what, though we get clues. What was this big event?

What leads to the societal breakdown in the film isn’t as important as the character’s responses to it. Any number of factors, or combination of factors, could very easily cause a similar breakdown. I also didn’t want to offer up some kind of implausible scenario that would reassure the audience  that such a thing could never happen – we set out to make a very realistic portrayal of how many of us would attempt to deal with a societal breakdown.

The Yap: Morality is a major theme in this film. There’s a definite attempt by the characters to maintain their civility and stick together, and they’re desperately clinging to their morals, but the world around them is collapsing and they seem to be fighting a losing battle.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that morality is relative. Another way of putting this is through the old Irish saying “When poverty comes in the door, love goes out the window” I’m also interested in the dynamics between the couples.

The Yap: Can you talk about their relationship in the house, in that it belongs to one of the couples, but the other lives there with them?

The different characters have very different attitudes and responses to what’s going on, which are played out in the group dynamics. I’m also interested in what happens when
very self-sufficient individuals are forced by circumstances to become part of a bigger
community, which they may not be that used to – the rules are different.

While the themes in the film are rather universal–this film really could have been made in any rural setting and been almost exactly the same way–there’s still a distinct Irish flavor. Can you discuss how you did that?

I’m glad to hear it seems universal. I didn’t set out to make a specifically Irish story. We could have made the film anywhere, but  I suppose since we are Irish all our inflections and ways of speaking to each other will give it a particular flavor.

For a story that may or may not be postapocalyptic, the photography is beautiful, with lush greenery all around. Can you discuss the film’s visual style as a storytelling technique? These characters are in the midst of great dispair, yet they live in this incredibly gorgeous environment.

That’s what Ireland looks like, we just pointed the camera at it and let it roll. Seriously though, we chose to make the film in the Wicklow Mountains, just south of Dublin,  because it’s a very beautiful part of the country and remote enough to create the world of the film–we needed somewhere away from traffic, streetlights etc. to make it work.  Most of the film is shot in and around a wooden house on the shores of a mountain lake called Lough Dan, and we also shot in a tiny Wicklow village which is actually called Hollywood,
It was important for a film with such dark material to have a lot of beauty in it, and the surroundings help to serve as a counterpoint to the character’s experience. I worked
very closely with Suzie Lavelle, our hugely talented DoP, and we gave ourselves some rules ( no unmotivated camera movement etc. ) that helped give rigour to the storytelling. She also had her work cut out lighting night interiors in a world without electricity, and she did a terrific job.