The Picturehouse Duke of York at Komedia in Brighton organised a Q&A session with director Sean Ellis for the release of his new film Anthropoid.
Anthropoid, why this story ?
Sean Ellis: Because of a documentary I saw in 2001 talking in depth about the second World War II and I studied a lot this War. Then I went to Prague’s archives War Museum in 2005, that’s when I got obsessed with telling this story and the weight of the mission on those two soldiers.
What took you so long ?
The story interested me quickly but I needed to feed the story. I read a lot, I built Anthropoid with every information I could find.The internet is very limited on this story so I took some time in museums, archives,… it’s only after Metro Manilla that I could really start working on making the film. So in 2010 I delivered 650 pages of scenario 😉
Your focus on this film ?
I wanted to focus on the personal feelings of those two soldiers, sacrificing their life for their country, their isolation, the claustrophobia, knowing they are alone with a huge weight on their shoulders.The idea was to take the audience on the in and out of one mission. Instead of making a blockbuster we want the audience to feel for them as much as you would wish they killed themselves rather than being caught.
[Spoiler] Lets talk about that gripping scene of Toby Jones and the pill.
That’s exactly at this point where we knew we did the right thing. If the audience is following the character and wants him to take the pill, we won.
The locations and shooting.
We shot half of the scenes in the same locations it happened. The torture scene has litterally being shot in the same room it happened. It’s a terrible feeling to think that you are walking on someone’s grave but we also did not want to leave the boy alone anymore by telling his story. It’s an hommage.Of course it was a very depressing day of shooting for everyone.
We could not shoot in the Church but we got to know about everything that happened there as they built up a Museum about the Anthropoid mission.You can still see the grenades holes in the crypte, you have the autopsy reports, it’s very moving.The Church gave us all their plans to create a true replicate.
Can you tell us in more depth your work on the Church scene?
The scene looks chaotic but actually it took a lot of storyboarding and 13 weeks to build the Church as it was during the War. We shot there during 4 days then after we destroyed everything, the new film Underworld took our place !
We used a model with action figures to show with photography , what I wanted with the light. In some films, actions scenes can look lazy and you don’t see anything. Here, the point of view of everybody is very important.
How did you work with Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan ?
Cillian Murphy understood from the beginning that Joseph was someone with a shield. With Peaky Blinders people know now that he is a leading man. Cillian normally never works with a first director, you have to answer all questions he had very thoroughly. He needs to check you know what you are doing. For Jamie Doran, funny story, when I met him he told me not to watch Fifty Shades of Grey but his TV show The Fall.
Why telling this story in english and not in its own language ?
I thought about doing it in tcheck but actually I wanted people from outside this country to get to know this incredible story. It had to be in English.
War is not romantic you say in your film ?
True, War is not romantic, it’s sadness. But actually the commitment , the loss of something that have been, is very romantic for me. The relation of Cillian Murphy and Anna Geislerová is exactly what the War created : emotions and love and loss. War must have destroyed so many love stories.
What now ?
I am doing a cinema version of Tinder, looking for a good story, good scenario to start working again !