We talked about the movie and the team behind as well as in front of the camera earlier here. We will bring you our own review(s) of the movie once we see the movie – cannot wait! Today let us turn our attention to the man at the center of the brewing storm: Balor McNeil.
Balor is a self-righteous, self-repressed minister living on a remote island in Scotland. He is married to Aislin (Andrea Riseborough) who had washed up to the shores of the island and was seen by the minister as sent from God to be his wife.
Corinna McFarlane, who directs the movie, in an interview with Indiewire, describes the couple: “Balor is a minister whose world is being uprooted. He has a traditionally male concept of godliness, which is structure and order, whereas Aislin is the weird woman, the Mary Magdalen, the misunderstood woman of nature for whom God is in mother nature; she has a more pagan view.”
Well, it seems the two cannot be more different from each other.
The main source of employment on the island is mining, and when the mines are shut down, the people start abandoning the island for jobs on the mainland. As Balor is obsessively thinking about how to keep his community together, he is also dealing with marital problems at home wit his spirited, independent-minded wife. Add to this mess, Fionn, a “a poetry-loving delinquent” sent to Balor and Aislin’s home for rehabilitation (Ross Anderson in his acting debut in a movie) and we all sort of know where this is going.
The way Balor sees the world is reflected in his own words:
We each have our duties in this life. To expect happiness in this life is a form of arrogance.
Ouch. The guy is RIGID to say the least. Can you imagine living with this kind of person? Life with Balor should be suffocating especially for a free-spirited young woman like Aislin.
And his strong devotion to duty makes him deeply committed to saving Fionn…
The Lord has sent you to my house because it is my way to the light. The greater the sin, the harder the work.
…and doing whatever it takes to keep his community together: even if it means dismantling an entire church, complete with its pews and possessions, transport it to the mainland on a boat and re-build it there for his congregation.
Everything must be finished. God has spoken to me. And the time is tomorrow.
Damian talks with Kate Muir from the Times about Balor: “I don’t find Balor wild and insane. I find him not dissimilar to some other parts I’ve played. This is a man driven by passions and honesty, which manifest themselves in that autocratic way. He is certainly a victim of his own rigidity.”
Damian tells a little bit more about his character here:
Director Corinna McFarlane talks about “judgment” as a major theme in the film: The reason I’ve given her (Aislin) no back story, had her come from nothing so to speak, is because woman are always judged: Are you married? Do you have children? People feel they need to put women in a context where as men don’t suffer that as much. When Aislin first washed up on the shores, she was seen as a gift from God. But when she turns out not to be what they said she was, they demonize her. Here is a trailer starting with the kind of “judgment” McFarlane is talking about.
And Damian makes an interesting observation about Balor’s relationship to Aislin: “It’s a good depiction of the way in which couples feel that they are owed by the other. If any relationship is to survive, compromise needs to be made… With that act of compromise, somewhere deep inside you, you feel you’re owed, however much you try not to say it. Balor feels he is owed by saving her from death, but he is frustrated because she maintains her independence, her own belief systems. They’re a conundrum as a couple and he never fully understands her.”
Director McFarlane is quite amazed with how quickly Damian Lewis and Andrea Riseborough looked like husband and wife right away on set: “I was like: ‘How have you done that?’ We were in stitches every time they talked to each other when they were off camera, hanging around, since they were acting married. They were just committed.”
Having said that… Young Fionn obviously understands spirited Aislin much better than her husband does and it is likely that it will be her but not Balor who will “save” Fionn. And Balor’s trip to the mainland for a few days to transport his church gives two young and neglected souls a chance to bond over some poetry and “save” each other…
So a storm is brewing… silently… and may gradually be turning violent.
Ross Anderson, who plays Fionn, talks about a fight scene between Damian Lewis and himself in an interview with Glass Magazine — I presume it takes place, for obvious reasons, after Balor comes back from his trip.
According to Anderson, the two actors took the fight scene pretty seriously, so much so that Anderson ended up with a few bruises and a splitting headache the next morning: “We had a stunt co-ordinator, but Damian and I said to each other, ‘Let’s just go for it,’ and he took that quite literally. He threw me against a tree and I ricocheted backwards, hitting my head. When I woke up the next morning, I had a splitting headache. It was nice to see that in the cinema, and hear the reaction of the audience, which is why we did it – we wanted it to have that effect.”
The fight scene is not the only challenge Damian takes in the movie; another one is — if you have watched the short video clip above, you have already noticed — Balor’s Scottish accent!
It turns out Damian did research to find the right accent: “I’m here to tell you it’s absolutely authentic, theatrical as it sounds. I listened to tapes going back to the Twenties when they were more isolated, and that accent had an almost Scandinavian sound – hup, hew, hy! …But I toned down the accent because it sounds strange to our ears now.”
I am not an expert on accents in any way. But I vividly remember Damian Lewis reading Robert Burns’ “A Red Red Rose” at Cheltenham Literature Festival with a Scottish accent and got a HUGE applause from the audience. He was very happy about it particularly because his Scottish father-in-law was in the audience that day 🙂
And, hey, we are extremely proud to have our own Scot, TBkwrm, on the team! Here is a short note from her:
“I am looking forward to seeing the movie in its entirety to judge fully, but based on the trailer it is sounding very good. The twang is particularly pronounced when he says the word “arrogance”. His accent is also different from the boy who stays with them in the movie. The boy is using a Glaswegian accent and is a city boy. Damian’s character is from the Islands. Due to some harsh (and undeserved) criticism of Damian’s Scottish accent in Colditz, it seems some think we Scots all sound the same which of course is not the case.”
And we highly recommend this short clip where you can find out about MANY Scottish accents in a fun way. ENJOY!