Bad Neighbours

Adrian Shergold is a British television and film director whose work includes ‘Funny Cow’ and ‘He Kills Coppers’. His latest movie, ‘Cordelia’, a psychological thriller he co-wrote with Antonia Campbell-Hughes, who plays Cordelia, a lonely woman suffering a breakdown in her apartment after her sister goes away for the weekend.

ASFF: How did Cordelia come about?
Initially I was trying to think about something for Sally Hawkins to do with me. We were really good friends. And we met on Persuasion. And we always said, ‘Let’s do something.’ And we started talking about this. And we met a few times, quite a few years ago. And then we didn’t quite get it off the ground. And when she was in Hollywood, up for an Oscar for Blue Jasmine, I remember thinking, ‘OK, I will go and write the story properly.’ And that’s when I really wrote it. And then obviously, when she got back, there was lots of things happening for her. And then I met Antonia [Campbell-Hughes], who seemed to have a fantastic quality to her, very much in the spirit of Sally. And we started work on it because I needed a woman to have some input into script. And then we got to the point where we’re trying to make it and we started talking to producers about it.

ASFF: What are your cinematic influences here?
Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Polanski’s Repulsion. And a lot of European films where you just tell quite a small story but you just give it a proper space to tell it. And even though this whole film is 48 hours in terms of the time span…we shot on film, which gives it a different discipline. We shot it much more classically than TV allows us to do. So that was just the joy of that, shooting on anamorphic lenses and on 35mm film. So we have a look that’s very different than just what we tend to see at the moment.

ASFF: You’ve also got Johnny Flynn starring opposite Antonia. What made you want to cast him?
I like Johnny because he’s lovely. First of all, he’s a very nice man! He plays a slightly creepy character in this but in a nice way. You’re not quite sure what to make of him. And in a way Cordelia has a very strange side so there’s something at times quite surreal about their conversations.

ASFF: Were you interested in exploring voyeurism?
Yes, really very much. Just because, I’m very, very aware of fragility in mental states and mental health. I’m not taking the piss out of it. I take it very seriously. In a way that seems to be an issue that need to be addressed; more and more anxiety happens, more people are suffering from anxiety than ever before it seems to me.

ASFF: You’ve been on a roll recently, with Funny Cow and Denmark. Do you feel they have similarities to them?
No, they’re very different. I mean, that the only reference to this and Funny Cow is about women’s survival. Denmark is about a bloke’s survival. But just the whole way we approach this is completely different than how we shot Funny Cow, which was very much her story. We don’t break any fourth walls in this. I jokingly said, ‘You don’t get more money for looking at cameras!’ No one looks at the cameras.

Cordelia is in cinemas from 23 October. For more details, click here.

James Mottram