Mark Jenkin on Enys Men's Unsettling Use of Time

You could, but I think it would drive you mad. You might start doing that, and by the time you get to the end, you’ve got everything in place — you get the last end bit in place — and you realize, “Well, if that’s the case, then the beginning doesn’t make sense.” So, you have to switch it around. For me, that’s the thing that intrigues me about time. If you think about it too much, it kind of drives you mad. You just have to experience it and get through it the best you can. There’s no past, and there’s no future. There is only the present moment. The past is just a reimagining from the present moment with a shift in context, and the future is the same. I think that the film kind of works in that space. I hope.

This is a film that demands attention, but it’s also a film that’s going to challenge people. How would you invite people into it?

Oh, wow. Just, I don’t know! I think if I knew that, I’d be working in marketing. I mean, I was talking about this last night, I was talking to Kyle Edward Ball who made Skinamarink, and we were talking about why it’s important to see the film at the cinema rather than seeing it at home. I got to thinking about that last night. Just the idea that there’s something so distinct about going to see a film like this, or Skinamarink, within a theater, and it’s about the cinematic nature of it. It doesn’t mean cinematic in terms of scale of what you’re seeing on the screen, or even anything that you’re seeing on the screen or coming out of speakers, it’s about that environment of being locked in a black box for an hour and a half and experiencing something without distraction. 

I know you can do that at home under certain circumstances. But my thought last night was, the thing about going to the cinema to see a film is, especially with something that unsettled you, when you leave, you’ve got to get yourself home. If that film is continuing to play, and continues to haunt you, it’s got under your skin. For me, that’s a really incredible experience. I remember when I went to see Black Swan. I went to see it on my own in a theater a couple of miles away from where I live. I had to cycle home afterwards, and still now, all these years later, it’s the most vivid memory of cycling back with this film continuing to play in my head. The films that I like, when you leave the theater, they’re still playing in your head. 

With this one, Enys Men is a three-act film. We just didn’t shoot the third act, so the third act is for the audience to play out in their head when they leave the cinema. I know that approach isn’t for everybody. But for those that do respond to those films, I think this will be a good experience.

Finally, I wanted to ask about The Volunteer. With so little dialogue, and with so few characters, everything is resting on Mary’s performance. What was the process of pulling her in on this, and being the right person for The Volunteer.

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