You Were Never Really Here: Press conference with Lynne Ramsay and Joaquin Phoenix
Although there were reports of last minute edits right up to the first screening, Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here was acclaimed by critics at Cannes. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Joe, the violent antihero who decides to save a young girl from sex trafficking.
Ramsay explained the brevity of both the two-month production and the movie itself, which she threatened to cut even further on theatrical release. “Some films deserve to be long but I didn’t want to bore you all, as it’s the last film of Cannes. I wanted to be economical. Hearing the gunshots in the editing gave me PTSD – the process took five days when it usually takes three weeks!”
Ramsay praised the music of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who provided the score, and suggested that she “wanted to explore his beautiful music in further cuts”.
The experimental nature and brutal content of You Were Never Really Here had roots in Ramsay’s watching habits. She claimed, “I watch documentaries all the time – I rarely watch feature films. The filmmakers I do like are interested in the human condition and trauma is a part of that. And it’s a traumatising time at the moment.”
As for Joe’s weapon of choice, Ramsay explained its significance. “The hammer is ridiculous and amazing. We see a lot of gunfire in films and I wasn’t interested in stuff shown a millions times. The film is almost post-violence. I enjoy the balletic and the glamorisation of violence but it often bores me as well.” Phoenix added that “a hammer leaves a mark – it’s a unique thing to use and it leaves a specific indentation”.
The actor explained how he portrayed his character, a war veteran. “Joe grew up with a lot of trauma so there is this need to become as powerful as he possibly can. He’s middle aged and a lot of that power has gone away. We wanted him to be as big as possible so to act as a form of armour, but also we see that it’s deteriorating… “We wanted to get away from the idea of the male hero. We called it the impotence of masculinity. He seems very capable but he isn’t. The girl is ultimately the one who saves herself, not the man.”
There are echoes of Martin Scorsese in the film’s subject matter, and Phoenix acknowledged a debt to another picture that featured a misguided ex-military man. “Taxi Driver was always one of the movies that made me want to become an actor. At first I thought we were making a comedy!”
Photo: Getty Images
Read our review of You Were Never Really Here here.
Read more of our reviews and interviews from the festival here.
For further information about Cannes Film Festival 2017 visit here.