I’ve always been moved by human stories and lives from bygone eras, especially ones that grapple with real issues that we can all relate to, which is perhaps how this story was born…
When I first began reading about the famine, I was deeply moved by personal accounts of Irish suffering and loss... I was outraged! Why didn't people do more? How could so many be left to die? The following day I was at CNN, editing a news piece where I was confronted with present day images of death, hunger and desperation and it struck me - How am I any different today, I turn a blind eye to the need I see? It was this thought that became the fuse which lit the flame for our film.
The past has this beautiful way of posing essential questions of our humanity in a way that is removed from the muddied waters of the present but encourages us to see things from a new perspective.
The Widow’s Last is very much a story of the past that resonates with our present. It poses the question – how will we respond to need we see through the life of a destitute Irish widow who encounters a wounded Englishman and must decide if she will be hardened by hatred or moved in compassion? The film employs a parallel narrative, to sharply counterpoint the paths of forgiveness and hatred. When we meet Kathryn and Sean, they are both in a place of hardship, they both blame the English for their suffering but as the story progresses and their choices diverge, we see with painful clarity the downward spiral of Sean’s character as he seeks vengeance and the redemptive nature of Kathryn’s path as she chooses compassion.
The Great Hunger is perhaps one of the darkest times in history and I wanted our film to reflect that. It needed to feel raw, gritty and personal and everything from the set design, to costumes, locations and cinematography went into building this tonally.
My goal cinematically was to create a sense of the intimate and epic - to feel up close and personal with our characters and yet very aware of their isolation. We used the stunning and visceral landscape of rural Ireland as a character within the film, it became an isolating presence, a cold and barren force of nature infusing the narrative throughout. Then in sharp contrast to this, the camera stays relentlessly close to the characters and the claustrophobic cottage works to build a sense of oppression and entrapment. This contrast between intimacy and isolation was a key feature of the piece.
It is my hope is that this story and these characters would light a path for us in turbulent times. That it would speak of the freedom found in forgiveness, the beautiful paradox that in giving we gain and the redemptive power of compassion.
Behind The Scenes
A week before the shoot the DP Andy Catarisarno and the Director Vanessa Perdriau scouted and tested all filming locations to establish best light and set-up options.
Seeing the cottage for the first time.
The Waterfall at Gleninchaquin Park.
Test shot for Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Test shot for opening shot of Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Test shot for OTS of Kathryn as she digs for potatoes.
Dusk in the valley of Gleninchaquin Park.
Scouting the location of Sean's hovel. Significant CGI was used to create the hovel between the crack in the rocks and the heather was cleared and a grave dug.
Gleninchaquin lake, test shot for film close-ups.