'Savage' is the debut feature film from Irish director Brendan Muldowney. It tells the story of Paul Graynor (Darren Healy), a Dubliner who is viciously attacked on his way home from a night out and becomes obsessed with revenge. Harry Guerin talks to the filmmaker about making the troubling thriller and his plans for the future.
Harry Guerin: 'Savage' is your feature film debut after a number of shorts. Why this story?
Brendan Muldowney: [Laughs] It's hard when you're making shorts for a long time and you're thinking about what you're going to make for your first feature. I suppose the real answer is that for years I had been obsessed with revenge films. It probably stemmed from an interest in the case of Bernhard Goetz in the 80s in New York. He was known as 'The Subway Vigilante'. He was travelling on the subway and was asked for money by guys and stood up and shot them within a couple of seconds. In court he claimed he was being mugged; they claimed they were begging.
One other thing which was really important to me was that growing up I would've witnessed scenes [on TV] from the North of Ireland of extreme violence and even more recently beheadings in Iraq and [other] stuff that would've had a profound effect on me. I wanted to get the feeling that I felt when I saw those scenes of violence. Regardless of the fact that they were in the media, I still felt something break inside me literally when I saw them - something very sad, with no answers. I wanted to put an audience through that same feeling.
HG: With Paul in the film, there are times when the audience will really feel for him and others when his actions and reactions will disturb them.
BM: I absolutely wanted to get a grey area where I wasn't telling the audience [and] wasn't trying to give them my beliefs on anything. I was trying to present something so that on one hand you were sort of with him and on the other you were horrified. Because I think it's far more interesting for an audience to come away and think about it themselves and make their own decisions.
HG: Most people who have lived in a city long enough have seen some incident that's made the hair stand up on the back of their neck or turned a corner and thought, 'This isn't safe'.
BM: I live in the centre of Dublin. I live on one of the main thoroughfares out of the city so I would hear and see Friday/Saturday nights' behaviour outside my window - well, hear it mainly because I'm not standing [there] looking out! You get used to it, though, and in fairness I'm not trying to portray Dublin as a terrible place. But yet, like any city in the world, there is sort of a darkness to it.
HG: One thing that fascinates me about Irish cinema is how few films about crime are actually made. Why do you think that is?
BM: I don't know, but I know what you're talking about - there's serious crime going on here at the moment and the English are great at doing gangster movies. I suppose there have been gangster movies and crime movies made and maybe they haven't come off so people are scared of it. There's probably no reason, it's just the way if you look back at Irish cinema history that certain genres have come in and gone. I'm sure they're coming and the way the country's going at the moment we're guaranteed a good crime film.
HG: In the jump from shorts to shooting a feature what was the toughest thing for you?
BM: I suppose the toughest thing is really getting trusted to make the feature - it's that exact jump you're talking about. That's the toughest bit because even with award-winning shorts to make a feature there's a lot riding on it - a lot of money, but also reputations, whether it's the Film Bord or whatever. The jump, I found, suits me. And I'm actually hungry to go again.
HG: So what's next?
BM: Myself and the producer of 'Savage' are working with Fastnet Films who made 'Kisses' on an adaptation of a Japanese novel called 'In Love with the Dead'. We've been trying to finance that this year and we've set a date provisionally for next year and we're going to go with it then.
HG: And what's it about?
BM: The story is basically about a suicidal, lonely young man who's really shut himself off from society and suddenly finds a reason to live through a dead body. And then as the film progresses he learns to basically interact with a real woman. So it's a sort of twisted love story where we're hoping he can find love with a real live person as opposed to a body!
HG: You put the fellas in your films through some awful things.
BM: [Laughs] Yeah, that's true, and I'm looking for an actor right now to play this guy!
'Savage' is in cinemas now.