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’45 Years’ Director Andrew Haigh on Making the Film Feel Like Music

Andrew Haigh worked as an assistant editor on films like Gladiator and Black Hawk Down before deciding to direct the indie drama Weekend and, his latest, 45 Years. In the latter, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay play an older married couple whose seemingly blissful life is turned upside down when a 50-year-old secret comes to light.

“Working in editing, you learn the mechanics of how to develop a story over an hour and a half,” Haigh tells Film Comment. “For me, it was especially interesting to see what a director chose to shoot and what actually made it into the final film. In the mainstream film industry, directors tend to shoot a lot of footage and then find the scene in the edit. Even before I made Weekend, I decided that I would work the other way around. I wanted to find what was important in a scene while shooting. If I determined that a scene could be done in one shot, that’s how I would shoot it, and I wouldn’t worry about coverage.

“What I am trying to do is make the whole film feel like a piece of music,” he continues. “In 45 Years, we don’t have a musical score to link everything together, so choosing the right shot size and blocking for each scene becomes essential in constructing the larger sequences.”