Joanna Hogg on The Souvenir Part II, Meta Making and Creating an Atmosphere of Discovery

It’s early in the morning in LA and Joanna Hogg looks back. It’s a process the filmmaker has grown accustomed to in recent years, especially with her latest film. Less a sequel to its acclaimed predecessor than a mirror – even a Matryoshka – and an examination of how people remember things, or how they might Choose so that they remember them, The Remembrance Part II reintroduces the viewer in Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), now in mourning for her cursed lover Anthony, an enigma to which she devoted her graduation film. Layers generate layers: “I had so many ideas from that first shoot,” Hogg says on Zoom, “and the second part is a response to that shoot. It’s almost like I’m doing some kind of documentation of this experience that I had had, not just the characters in the story.

Born in London in 1960, Hogg studied at the National Television and Film School and honed her craft while working in television for much of the 90s. It was only after that she switched to feature films, making a first series of exceptional films—Unconnected (2007), Archipelago (2010), Exposure (2013) – who combed through the inner lives of Britain’s middle class. For Memory, released in 2019, the director took a slightly different path and achieved her greatest success, telling a semi-autobiographical story that was both a coming-of-age tale and a romantic tragedy.

Very noticed opening in Cannes and NYFF, The Remembrance Part II returns us to this world while eliminating its conventions: “Part II jumps into new territory for me that isn’t necessarily based on how I was as a student,” Hogg explains. “There are a lot more inventions, maybe that’s where the feeling of experimenting comes from. I didn’t feel like I was stuck with my own life. He’s traveling in different directions, in new directions, and it was really exciting.

The conversation has been edited and condensed for quality.

The Movie Scene: In some ways, this feels like your most experimental movie. And quite different from the first part, although you wrote both parts about the same time. How did these experiments develop?

Joanna hogg: I like that you see it as experimental. I’m still kind of pushing the way I do certain things. I knew it should encompass a lot of things, but I don’t know what makes it feel that way. All of us, the crew and the cast, felt like we were making a great student movie of sorts. There was that kind of atmosphere of discovery, of trying new things, of not knowing how things were going to work, of deciding things at the very last minute.

So there was that kind of chaos – maybe not quite the chaos of Julie’s filming, but something of that. It was fun and really empowering, every day we were shooting what felt like a different movie in a way.

It is no less moving than the first. There is this scene where Julie breaks her mother’s sugar bowl, I can still hear the gasps of the Cannes audience. Could you have predicted how powerful that would be?

Well, you never really know, but you’re kind of hoping that there will be an investment in it. This is one of those scenes that is quite difficult to pull off. But I really like it, when something so subtle can have that reaction.

Did you see it as a sequel? Are there any you like?

It’s a sequel, in a way, but it was always intended that there would be two movies, so that wasn’t something I thought of. I tend to avoid them, but The Godfather Part I and II are somehow necessary for each other. Jean de Florette and Spring Manon, they feel like two movies in a way, but not the traditional sequel, I guess.

It was reminiscent of some Iranian films from the 90s: Kiarostami, A moment of innocence, stuff like that. I was wondering if you had thought of them, that idea of ​​going back and directing a pivotal moment in your life, Julie style?

I like Kiarostami very much and I am so sorry that he is no longer here. It’s true. I didn’t go back to watch these movies, but they probably had such an impact on me at the time that they were somewhere in my subconscious, just like other more obvious works, like 8 ½, Day for Night. I am interested in films on films.

Were you looking to reverse the idea of ​​“film within film” in some way?

I dont know subvert. I like the idea of ​​overturning that idea. The thing is, it was so much a part of the story – it’s so much a part of the fabric of the main movie – that it wasn’t something that I could sort of come out and think of in a different way. . It was for Julie to react to what had happened to her and to learn to express herself and to express something that had happened to her. I just always thought, with Part I, that they’re kind of a negative / positive or positive / negative of each other, and the movie in the movie, or the dream in the movie – either would describe it – is in this story.

I knew that I didn’t want to show the film that we see made by Julie; I wanted to take the idea a step further, and that experimental thing you mention may have been part of it. It comes from me pushing me. Everyone around me, we were all very excited to get to the point where we were going to shoot Julie’s “dream” movie. Everyone wanted to know what it would be like to be exactly, what sets were going to be built and what the costumes would be, and I wasn’t able to decide the details until we had literally just shot it. It was therefore done very spontaneously, contrary to what it seems.

The interview we see at the end is taken almost verbatim from the one you did at the time. How did Julie’s graduation film echo yours as well?

The film was inspired by my graduation film in film school. Where it differs is that my graduation film at film school did not talk about the relationship I had experienced. It was personal but in a different way. It was about self-identification and self-acceptance, on some level, but it wasn’t about the relationship. I knew I wanted Julie to make this movie. I knew I wanted her to examine the relationship from Part 1, and part of it was the experience of filming Part 1, which got me thinking about that.

Anthony’s absence leaves so much room for other characters, including Richard Ayoade’s Patrick. How did you develop this role?

It’s wonderful to work with Richard – he’s a filmmaker himself, obviously, so he brings that to the role. We had a lot of fun doing research together. He also did some research on his own, what kind of director Patrick was, and watched interviews with different directors back then in the ’80s and the kind of ideas that were circulating at the time, to be political but also the Hollywood musical. have some sort of resurgence or re-imagining.

So there was a lot of detail in there, thinking about what it’s like to be a filmmaker, with the vision and the arrogance that can potentially come with it. But also the director as a performer in a way, because the directors have to play – in a way I’m playing now. I don’t feel like I am, but there is this other role that you have to play.

How did you see that reflected in Honor’s performance?

It was strange to me. I realized how much she observed and absorbed how I worked by watching myself lead when we were doing the first part and then incorporating that into the way Julie directs and works.

You said Honor started wearing his mother’s clothes from that time on. Everything seems to lend to the surrealism of the film in a certain way. Was there a clear idea of ​​this on set?

Yes. Even more in the making of the film. How to explain? This sense was present all the time. Sometimes we somehow didn’t know where we were. It’s complicated because of these mirrors. I experienced what Julie experiences in the second part when she goes to the set of her apartment. I had this when I did the first part, to walk on the set and to think that my apartment had time traveled to the present. A lot of strange things have happened.

Did he sometimes feel like he was still in this world, taking interviews like Julie towards the end of the movie??

It was difficult after the first part. I decided at that point to make interviews part of the job because I didn’t want to let the preparation of Part II. So, speaking to yourself or other reporters, I would use that as some kind of weird research.

Will it be difficult to say goodbye to this world so submerged in recent years?

It’s hard to move on, in some ways, because I have so much affection for the characters, and it’s always the hardest thing to leave behind – the kind of potential for the character – but I will leave it behind me. You never know what will appear in the future. Every character has a story and there are other stories to tell. You feel very rich that way.

Have you thought of revisiting it?

No. I mean, sometimes I wonder, it’s not something that I do, but I think back to when I was working in TV and if that might be something I could explore in the future. I’m not necessarily going to do this. I have already made another film, which I cannot speak about, which I am currently editing and doing post-production on. I’m very excited about what’s going to be beyond that – I don’t know but part of the excitement is not knowing what it’s going to be.

The Remembrance Part II opens in theaters Friday, October 29.

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