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In competition: "Fish Tank"

About the film:

Fish Tank, the second film by British director Andrea Arnold, is also her second ticket to the Croisette. On her last visit, in 2006, she went home with the Jury Prize for Red Road. Her latest, presented in Competition, is an intimate family chronicle. Heroine Mia is a rebellious teenager thoroughly disgusted by her family and surroundings. But the arrival of Connor, her mother's new boyfriend, will transform her vision of life.

To make Fish Tank, Andrea Arnold put her faith in the creative process which has served her so well in the past: "All my films have started with an image. It’s usually quite a strong image and it seems to come from nowhere. I don't understand the image at first or what it means, but I want to know more about it so I start exploring it, try and understand it and what it means. This is how I always start writing."
To make the film more realistic, Arnold cast Katie Jarvis, who is not a professional actress, in the role of Mia. "I always wanted someone real for Mia," she explains. "I wanted someone who would give me trouble for real. I wanted a girl who would not have to act, could just be herself."

Andrea Arnold hesitated before settling on Michael Fassbender for the Connor character. But seeing him in a clip from Wedding Belles convinced her of his potential: "I thought he was very charismatic and that was an important quality for Connor. I made a decision without meeting him because he felt right and I trust my instincts in that way. I began to think it would be interesting to have someone with experience, mixed with Katie’s innocence." Michael Fassbender, admired for his performance in Hunger, last year's Caméra d’Or, will also be in Cannes this year to present Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino.


Press conference:

At today's meeting with the international press, Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold was flanked by stars Kierston Waering, Harry Treadaway and Michael Fassbender, producer Nick Laws, cinematographer Robbie Ryan, film editor Nicolas Chaudeurge and set designer Helen Scott. As for Katie Jarvis, who plays Mia, she was unable to attend because of a happy event as she has just had a baby. Excerpts from the conference follow:

Andrea Arnold on the image that inspired Fish Tank:
I won't tell anybody what it is, because I feel like it gives the film away. I had an image of Katie doing something, and I wondered: what was she doing, why was she doing it, and I start writing outwards from that image. It's one of the strongest images in the film, I think, and that's how I've always written.

Michael Fassbender on his character, Connor:
When I first spoke to Andrea, it was on the phone... She told me a little bit about what my character's journey was, sort of very brief, and I got a sense of it then. I had an idea where it was going to go. And, you know, the scenes – it wasn't really that difficult. I mean, you just sort of try and sort of serve the story as best as possible. What's always interesting with Andrea's work is you have these characters that do questionable things, and it doesn't make them essentially "evil" – words like that are sort of black and white – but there's a lot of shading in there...The audience leaves the cinema questioning what they just saw, and questioning the morality of the actions of these characters. Essentially, I never wanted to judge the character or his actions. I just wanted to sort of play it moment by moment, and just let the story take care of itself, in Andrea's hands.

Kierston Waering on the fact that she had no script:
Well, for me it was a one-off option again, because I've worked with Ken, and I didn't think I'd be working in such a similar way again. It was fantastic to work in sequence again, which apparently is quite rare. And not knowing what's going on, because I always believe that in real life, you don't know what's going to happen…

Andrea Arnold on the choice of the title:
It just felt absolutely right. People always want to put something on the documents for the film early on. Before you've even made the film, they want to know what the title is. I always feel I need to feel the film first, and see what it's going to be before I think of the title. So I kind of resist the title thing until I absolutely have to. I'm not sure, but – "Fish Tank" – there's a lot of life in a fish tank, and it's a small space… I felt that was a good metaphor for the film.


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