By Linda Marric
After the success of highly acclaimed 2013 film The Lunchbox, and the accolades showered on him from film fans and critics alike, Indian director Ritesh Batra is back, this time with this brilliantly accurate and honest adaptation of Julian barnes’ novel The Sense of An Ending. This long awaited production, which stars amongst others, Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and the excellent Harriet Walter is released this week. The film is sure to attract the attention of fans of Barnes’ Man Booker Prize winning book, and those eager to find out if the film does the book justice. Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Ritesh for an interview and asked him about his experiences working with such a stellar cast and about the difficulties that can arise from translating books onto film.
LM: How did your involvement in this project come about? Had you read Julian Barnes’ book prior to taking on the job?
RB: Yes, I read it in 2011 when it came out and I loved it. It’s one of those things that I carried around with me, and I’d looked into it after my first movie Lunchbox came out, then I found out that an adaptation was already in the works, then I forgot all about it, because I tend to write my own material, then it came to me as an offer to direct. I was just really honoured to be part of it because of my love for the book and for the genius things that Nick Payne had done with with the script.
LM: What difficulties did you come across in translating the book onto the screen? Where there any bits that you were desperate to use, then eventually thought this isn’t going to work?
RB: Well you know, that always happens; the main challenge was that the book is told in first person from Tony to the reader, and movies have to be told through relationships, which is just a process of telling the story that Julian [Barnes] tells, or a version of that story, through Tony’s relationships…..like the one with his ex wife, his daughter, or his ex girlfriend and her mother, however fleeting it is..…and then you’re looking through that lens and the trajectory of these relationships. That was really the job, and looking at it as a character study and going deeper into all these characters we love from the book, or at least a version of them. That was the most interesting part of the job for me.
LM: How did you find filming all the 1960s stuff, did you find that fun or was it quite challenging?
RB: It was both actually, because you also have to be true to the ‘60s, so I talked to both Julian Barnes and Alan Rickman, who I also became friends with in the last year and half of his half. It was a real gift and also a real pleasure to talk to him, I really miss spending time with him…..he was always available to me as a resource, on the phone or on email. I’d met him a couple of times when I first came to London, he was a very generous human being, he gave me a lot of pointers and tips about how things were then. You know….because he went to school with Julian Barnes and he told me a lot of what they used to do at that time.
LM: How was the casting process? Did you have certain people in mind from the start?
RB: Yeah, Jim [Broadbent] was always the natural choice for Tony, because he’s such an endearing presence and I knew he would play tony in a very sophisticated and endearing way, as he does. Charlotte [Rampling] was also the obvious choice for Veronica and so was Harriet [Walter] for Margaret. It was a real gift for me to have Emily Mortimer because she is such a sophisticated actor, because she brings so much empathy to that part. It’s rather unexpected I thought, it was just a big revelation for me meeting her, she taught me a lot about the character. Michelle Dockery had such a wonderful energy that she brought to the movie, she’s a real breath of fresh air. And all the younger actors who really got the essence of their parts. We were not necessarily looking for lookalikes, but I think that took us the longest time, to find Billy Howle and Freya Mavor. Nina Gold who did the casting did a brilliant job. It was really a great gift all around to work with this great big tapestry of actors.
The Sense of an Ending is in cinemas from Friday April 14th