Peter Strickland is the British filmmaker behind some of the more unique movies of the past decade. After making his feature debut with 2009’s Katalin Varga, he followed it with Berbarian Sound Studio (2012) and The Duke of Burgundy (2014), as well as the documentary Björk: Biophilia Live (2014). He returns with In Fabric, a singular ghost story that stars Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Sheila, a lonely single mother who buys herself a dress that brings destruction upon those who wear it.
ASFF: In Fabric involves a haunted red dress and objects play a strong part of the narrative. Is that something you’re taken by?
PS: I’ve always been fascinated by objects in cinema, and it’s something that tends to get ignored. Actors can get quite annoyed when you’re filming an object. I’ve had actors freaking out on me because I spend more time filming an object! But objects can produce very strong emotions! A shirt from a dead relative can reduce someone to tears.
ASFF: One of the big settings in the film is the department store, Dentley & Soper’s. Did you grow up near anything similar?
PS: Jacksons – in Reading. It closed down five years ago. We wanted to shoot there because the building was intact inside. They shot an episode of Endeavor there. I’m still jealous of that episode! It was wonderful, Jacksons, really wonderful, but we missed the boat. It was completely gutted out. You had this wonderful wood paneling…and the pneumatic money shoots. The whole world was strange and mysterious. I love shops in films – like Street of Crocodiles by the Brothers Quay, with the old tailor’s shop…just worlds you can lose yourself in.
ASFF: What drew you to Marianne Jean-Baptiste?
PS: It was Toby Jones who recommended her. I did a radio play with Toby. We were just talking about what we were doing next…I said, ‘I’m looking for a middle-aged woman’, and I didn’t know much about Marianne really. I’m not a fan of social realism; I haven’t seen Secrets & Lies…I went out and bought it. Thank God [it’s over twenty years old], it was cheaper to buy! I just fast-forwarded to the bits with Marianne…I thought she was wonderful. I still haven’t seen the whole film in one go!
ASFF: In Fabric was produced by Rook Films, which filmmaker Ben Wheatley is part of. How is he to work with?
PS: Ben is what I call a soft exec – my favourite type of exec. Because he’s a filmmaker, he understands that filmmakers don’t like suggestions! He doesn’t give notes and I wouldn’t give notes either. He’s there if you want to moan about something. For me, a good exec is someone who would listen. He understands that filmmakers want to be left on their own. So for me he was a perfect exec.
ASFF: What are you hoping to make next?
PS: Night Voltage…that’s an all-male film pretty much, set during the gay nightclubs in New York in 1980 and very difficult to get money for that kind of thing – it’s very niche. When you have women lovers, it’s easier to get money but when it’s male lovers…it is harder! It feels that way anyway. Maybe my script is shit! I don’t know.
In Fabric is released in cinemas on 28 June. For more details, click here.
1. Still from In Fabric.