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ScreenTalks Archive: Carol Morley on The Falling

actor maisie williams being carried by many schoolgirls
2 May 2017
33 min listen

We hear from one of the freshest and most distinctive voices in British cinema today – Carol Morley about The Falling.

About Carol Morley
After receiving her first BAFTA nomination in 2002 for the autobiographical film, 'The Alcohol Years', she went on to earn further acclaim for the moving docudrama, 'Dreams of a Life' in 2011.

In this ScreenTalk from April 2005, the witty and engaging Morley talks to film curator and critic, Briony Hanson, about her 2014 feature, 'The Falling'.




EEJ: Ellen E Jones
CM: Carol Morley 
BH: Briony Hanson 

EEJ: Hello and welcome to this, the latest in our series of Barbican ScreenTalks. 

Your chance to hear classic interviews with some of the most fascinating players in world cinema, recorded live at the Barbican cinemas. 

We've been building up an impressive archive of ScreenTalks and Q&As since the early 90s and have already shared conversations with the likes of Terry Gilliam, Ken Loach and Horace Ove. 

In this podcast, we hear from one of the freshest and most distinctive voices in British cinema today. Carol Morley received her first BAFTA nomination in 2002 for the autobiographical film, The Alcohol Years. This compelling documentary saw Morley, a native of Manchester, revisiting the period she lost to drinking and partying as a teenager in the early 80s. In 2011, Morley earned further acclaim for the moving Dreams of a Life, a docudrama examining the life of Joyce Vincent, whose body lay undiscovered for three years after she died alone in a north London bedsit. 

But in the interview you're about to hear, Morley talks to film curator and critic, Briony Hanson, about her 2014 feature, The Falling. 

The Falling is a bold unsettling tale about mass hysteria in a fictional 1960s girls school. The film stars Maisie Williams, best known as the fearless Arya in Game of Thrones, and newcomer Florence Pugh. They play Lydia and Abbie, whose intense friendship is turned into turmoil when Lydia inexplicably begins to suffer fainting spells, setting off an epidemic throughout her school. 

The Falling is peppered with memorable characters, from Lydia's brother Kenneth, who is obsessed with ley lines and magic, to her self-absorbed mother, played by Morley's muse, Maxine Peake. It's also an extraordinary look at female friendship and sexuality that has earned comparisons to the likes of Picnic at Hanging Rock and Don't Look Now. 

In the interview you're about to hear, the witty and engaging Morley explains what drew her to the bizarre phenomenon of mass hysteria. She discusses why she's drawn towards such dark material, despite her cheery personality, and she reveals how, when it came to the soundtrack, stalking Everything But The Girl's Tracey Thorn paid off in the end. 

The Falling is full of twists and turns, many of which are revealed here, so if you're yet to see the film, be warned - more than a few spoilers lie ahead. 

I'm Ellen E Jones and this is Barbican ScreenTalks with director Carol Morley. 


BH: Hello everybody, thank you for joining us this evening. Thank you so much, Carol. I can't quite believe you're doing this. You've, it's feels like you're cruising to the finish now. The film opens tomorrow and you've done pretty much every single media outlet there is. You've been highly in demand! 

CM: You've got to fight for independent film to be visible 

BH: And you're fighting. That's brilliant. So listen, a posh girls' school full of mass hysteria wearing a dark blue uniform is absolutely the stuff of my childhood. I'm wondering if it's the stuff of yours. And if it's not, where did all this come from? 

CM: Well I went to a big mixed comprehensive school. It's actually a grammar school and at the time you would have had, you know people who had passed their 11+, so people from different backgrounds. You had to be a smart thing. But I was always, I did have fantasies about going to a girls' school. I don't know... they just seemed...My sister had Bunty magazine that had The Four Mary's in it? If anyone remembers that? And there was always in a boarding school some victim in a cage that got locked out in the snow - the pauper. I don't know... They were always quite romantic and, so I did fantasize but, I didn't go to one so... I did a lot of research into it. What they were like at the time. And there were teachers that smoked and all that kind of stuff. But the idea of a mass hysteria, mass psychogenic illness in real life, there'd been going on since medieval times but they often happen in closed institutions, closed settings. And usually among young female adolescents. So, there's a lot of outbreak that happen in schools that go unreported. Although they're not going to go unreported for long because I'm starting to get lots of messages about people's own mass hysterias at their school. So I think we're going to, you know, break open a whole new topic for, breakfast television [laughter] 

BH: So tell us, so you came across the idea - how did you go about the research? 

CM: So, I was on the phone to my friend Bev and she started laughing and couldn't - and you know, we started laughing and couldn't stop. And she mentioned this village in medieval times where the villagers couldn't stop laughing. And I just loved the idea of that so I Googled it. Came across a village, not in medieval times, but in the 1970s in Tanzania where there was a village that couldn't stop laughing and it spread. And then I came across this term 'mass psychogenic illness' and an article written in the early 80s by, he's now a Sir, Simon Wesley. He's apparently the top doctor in Britain, but I didn't know that - I just went to meet him! And I spoke to him about this mass psychogenic illness and behind him I saw these two massive box files that said 'Mass Hysteria'. 


BH: And that was that 

CM: So I asked if I could take them home, but he didn't trust me, so I was allowed in to study them at the Maudsley at Kings College. So he'd got everything, you know, like a small article from somewhere in Turkey, or every medical article ever written about a British outbreak. So I did a lot of research that way and then I also looked a lot at schools as well. 

BH: And the phenomenon is contemporary, you could have made this as a contemporary film. 

CM: Yeah, a classic case of mass psychogenic illness now would probably revolve around toxins in the food or something to do, terrorism, someone smelling a smell. A recent one was, what's the injection you have for cervical cancer? 


CM: Yeah, there was a massive one somewhere abroad where about 400 people in the village - even girls who didn't have it - but people were saying it was something to do with something going wrong with that. That was the most recent one I read about. So yeah, they absolutely happen, but if they're handled properly, and acknowledged, but not over-inflated, they will tend to go away quite quickly. But there was, one of the famous one in medical journals was in a North London comprehensive. The medical article was entitled 'Blackouts in the North London Comprehensive School' and it was handled so badly it lasted two years. 


CM: And you have to be of the same age, and obviously in The Falling, Abigail Morter everyone admires. So in a classic case, you would admire someone, so it could be like, cheerleaders, the top cheerleader faints and people start to feel symptoms too. And they do feel they're real. 

BH: You obviously know everything about this subject now - why did you make a drama not a documentary?

CM: What I wanted to do really was to, I mean it was, this was like the bigger element of it, but in some ways I wanted to look at adolescent teenage girls. And I didn't just want to look at them, I wanted to get inside what that feeling is. So I think that fiction and drama is a beautiful way of doing it. I think that if I'd made a documentary it might have got quite episodic, looking at episodes, it might have been quite difficult to do that. I think I love the idea that it was like a collective group of young girls, almost like resisting the world. And you could make it something quite beautiful and speak to a lot of people through that. Whereas with a documentary it might be like, I'm banging on about mass hysteria, you're just like 'aahhh God'... 

BH: Tell us about the girls - let's start with Maisie. Tell us about the casting of Maisie. Where did you... Were you a Game of Thrones fan? What made you pick her? 

CM: I've never seen Game of Thrones. 

BH: It's all dragons

CM: Yeah, never seen it. And, but Shaheen Baig, the casting agent, was like, 'You've got to see this girl Maisie Williams', because the character written is very complicated. She's entirely likeable, Maisie in the film is 16 and I really wanted a 16 year old to play Lydia. And, so I couldn't see Maisie for a while because she was filming that programme, Game of Thrones, whatever. 


And she told me, I've completely forgot - I remember them but I don't remember what I said because I saw her the other day and she said, she came in and I said, 'I've never seen you in Game of Thrones' and then I went, 'But I've watched an interview with you on the internet and I liked you', or something weird. And then she said I got her, I asked her to tell a sad story but she told a happy story and I said 'That's great, that's brilliant'. And she said, 'I thought you were completely mental'. 


But as soon as she came in, it just felt right, that she could handle this very complex character and is in herself, you know, able to render a charismatic character that pulls you in. I think she is just such a fine young actor, amazing to work with. I was in awe of her, but I didn't tell her that. In fact, one of the things I remember on set if that she drew me aside one day and she went, 'Carol, can I just say we're having real difficulty with the costume people. They're being really horrible to us'. And I went, 'Oh, I'll have a word'. But I'd told the costume people to be, everyone on set, to be really strict with the girls, like they were at school. So Maisie was like, 'They're getting us to pick up our clothes off the floor'. 


I know. And later on, I told her that I got everyone to do that, because I was asking how they say in school. And you can see, you know in school, slump a bit, and you wouldn't be able to do that then. So we taught them posture and all that kind of stuff. Anyway, so Maisie was the leader of the gang because all the other girls in the film were newcomers, pretty much, I mean Florence Pugh had never done anything before. 

BH: And how did you find her? 

CM: She was, I mean the casting agent put out a wide call near the school where we were going to film in Oxfordshire, because Shaheen said do it near where you're going to film because it's cheaper because they can stay at home! So, Florence nearly didn't answer the casting call and did at the last minute and she sent us, you know like a 30 second tape, or something. And I have to say, when she came to the audition, she had a lot of make up on, and well, not a lot, she said it wasn't a lot, but I got her to take her make up off. And she came in the room and did her audition. She said I got her to talk about a pebble. Tell a story about a pebble. I think I wanted to see if they could tell a story, you know, because that is what all filmmaking is, you know, if you can connect to the audience. And then, when she left the room, I remember everyone saying 'Oh my god, that was like a young Kate Winslet coming in the room'. And, but I think also Florence has been writing songs herself and singing songs since she was 8 so you can find her on YouTube as Flossie Rose singing Elvis Presley, her Mum used to post the videos, so there's a miniature Florence playing, you know, Hound Dog. 

BH: That's genius. 

CM: Yeah 

BH: Did you have to, with the others, particularly with the kind of newcomer group of them, did you ever have to, you know, reign them in? You know, did they know how to behave on set? Did you know how to direct them? 

CM: Well I did it in a very simple way, which is that Maisie had more experience than I did at being on set. Because, you know like, so I got her to, well, I guess slightly creepy of me, I suppose, but I said to Maisie, would you talk to the girls about what it's like to be on set. And I listened at the door a bit... And I heard Maisie go, 'and the Second Assistant Camera does this...and they're usually very good looking'. That's what she said. 


But so, they had her, which was really good, rather than someone... 

BH: As did you... 

CM: So she really taught them a lot and took them along with her. She was amazing. Rather than some adult...But for me on set, what I always try to achieve is the set is about the cast, not about the crew. So we go, we're intruding on your world, so, you want, in order to get good performances you want them to feel as comfortable as they can. And they did with each other. They all shared a house while they were filming. We had some bills for damages but... hey! But then also, beforehand we did a lot of workshops and rehearsal time. So by the time we started filming they were a tight gang. 

BH: OK and what about the contrast between them and the sort of established names that you had, like your muse, Maxine. 

CM: Maxine... 

BH: And Greta and you know, people who really... 

CM: Well, I did, really you don't get that much time in advance. But I would send them all my research about their characters. So they really knew who they were and then they developed them. Someone like Monica Dolan who plays Miss Alvaro really takes a lot of time with her costumes. So that was slightly different. But I did ask them, so I asked all the adults to be cold to the girls, right. So Maisie thought Maxine hated her. And she said, she'd be in a car with her, getting driven back and she'd go and try and get Maxine to like her and Maxine would go 'huh'. Because you know, you'd try anything you can to keep this, tension going that there needed to be. Greta, I told to be horrible to the girls - not horrible to the girls, but just cold and withdrawn and not friendly, and I walked in the room and she was going 'Darling, you're so beautiful!' 


She was like that, and you're like 'Oh, Greta!' But then as soon as she got into Miss Mantel in that room they were really scared of her. And at first the girls, like when we had a classroom of girls and an assembly of girls, they would get the giggles, because, you know at that time at school, you would sit up really straight. I wanted that kind of sense of that, but they would get the giggles at first at being in a more strict environment. 

BH: That's brilliant 

CM: So no, the adult cast were amazing to work with. But I think everybody had a different acting technique. So at one point I was in a room thinking, everyone comes to their roles differently and you just have to harness it, I think. What everyone's got and how they like to do it. 

BH: And tell us about the other collaborators, the sort of behind the camera collaborators, particularly Agnes. 

CM: Yes, there was Agnes Godard, DOP, Janie Levick, who was the production designer. Janie Levick has done Sightseers, and she's done This is England and I really, really liked her work. And as soon as we met, and she's Northern as well, so as soon as we met and were talking chips at school and you know, dinner ladies at school and funny curtains. And then, Agnes Godard was someone who doesn't have an agent, she shot all Claire Denis' films, she shot Beau Travail, she's in her sixties now so she's got over thirty years’ experience, doesn't have an agent, but I managed to track down her email on a cinematography site. 

BH: What were you going for? Why did you pick her? 

CM: Because I love the idea of someone lensing the film that wasn't British. So the world was unfamiliar to her. So she would see it for the first time. So that was the initial thing. And she's bloody brilliant, you know. But we didn't think it would happen. But, we sent her the script and she said, 'Oh, I'll read the script', and she read the script and really liked it. And then we Skyped and she didn't have a camera set on her face, it was like up here, so I only saw her forehead. And it gradually, gradually creeped down. 

BH: Did that give you confidence in her as a cinematographer? 

CM: Yeah, I was like... And then she went, 'I don't know if I can do it' and in fact it was, Cairo the producer, who's here somewhere, but, it was the first time in our lives that we'd got the money for a project but not yet, but we were lying that we had a director of photography at that point. So, we were like, oh my god, we've got to start in like three weeks, and Agnes was like 'I thought I'd know by today if I could do it, but I don't know' and I'm like 'Oh my god, I felt sick' but she went, 'I've decided to do it anyway'. Next day, I caught the Eurostar for the day to Paris and we just spent the day with each other, got locked out of her flat with my passport in there, I mean, it was all like - one of those things, it's a very bonding day. You know. 

BH: And did you talk about particular references with her? 

CM: No, no... What we did was, well, I suppose in a way we did, but over the course of writing the script I'd kept a scrapbook, so I took the scrapbook and we went through the scrapbook. So there were images from Picnic at Hanging Rock in there, but it was, there was images of paintings and the colours that I liked. But she, I don't know why but we had this thing that we decided we weren't going to make the film, that the film already existed and that it had been made in the 60s, and we were going to find it. That was our rationale all the time. And we didn't quite know what it meant, but, we would go to people, 'We are finding...' - I started talking in a French accent, you know - I was like, 'We are finding the film' and all that, but it was brilliant. So, there were so many people, so many components that they were brilliant collaborations really. But Agnes was, you know I learnt so much from her. 

BH: You've written a lovely piece for the BFI website which people should see which has got a snap shot of that, your scrapbook 

CM: Yeah, yeah - I could give the other scans of the other 400 pages if people want them 

BH: That would be wonderful! 

CM: But that's just one page. 

BH: And then, before we take some questions, what about Tracy Thorn? As a really key collaborator

CM: It really was, so what happened was is that I, um, The Alternative School Orchestra existed and they had those instruments, and while we were filming, I had a dream that Tracy Thorn had done the music. And I'd been to a book launch of hers and went up to her afterwards and said 'Would you like to come for a drink' and she went, 'No, I'm going with some other people' 


So I was a bit like a stalker but anyway, so then I had this dream and then I tracked her down on Twitter, because she's big on Twitter, I got her phone number and phoned her and I've never forgotten it, because where we were filming in Oxfordshire, there was a place called Salvador Deli - it was a deli called Salvador Deli - and it was the only place you could get a phone signal, right. So I phoned her up outside and she went, 'Well I've never done it before' and I went, 'Well, that's great' and, so she agreed to do it. So when we got back after the filming I took her those instruments, showed her about a three minute rushes from the film of footage and she started to compose music. So as soon as me and Chris started the edit, proper, Chris Wire, we started incorporating her music then. So she never saw the film until close to the end when we needed a bit more. 

BH: And was she always absolutely right? Or did you have to give her direction? 

CM: Never. I didn't give her any. No. 

BH: That worked well 

CM: Because it's sort of like, it's even with directing actors, the less information you can give the better. You don't want to like muddy the waters. So, I think if you cast film right, both actors and crew, it sort of works. 

BH: That's brilliant 

CM: So you're casting Tracy Thorn, in a way, to be part of it

BH: Let's take some questions. I think we have got a mic so if you could just hesitate for one second while... Oh look, they're all going to be really shy now! 

CM: Oh no... 

BH: If you just hang on one second a mic is coming to you 

Q1: Hello, could you tell us how many drafts you did of the script and how different was the script to the finished film? 

CM: I've just noticed on the front row is my script editor, Kathryn Castles - she should really... These are the people who don't get name checked enough! So Kathryn could tell you that, but I would say, I worked with her from the beginning on outlines - I did a lot of outlines. So I didn't really a first draft at all, the outline was all... You're not going to answer are you? I didn't really write the first draft until the outline was quite in depth and a lot of work done on it. So there were two drafts and a third draft that we shot from, but those were only the drafts that were delivered, I'd say. So there were things in between. But they were like, Draft 1, Draft 1 with revisions, Draft 2 and then the one we shot. But there was a lot of work in between that. But then the actual film, on the DVD there will be deleted scenes so there are scenes that haven't made the film. But I think it follows what the script was on the whole. 

BH: What was the biggest challenge you had doing that? I was wondering particularly about the end? Because, with a film like this there must have been... the idea of there being a conclusion or inconclusive or open ended or - what discussions did you have around that? 

CM: Well, I'd always remembered as well reading something about Peter Weir about Picnic at Hanging Rock where he said he'd never make a film without an ending again. Because at the time it caused him a lot of trouble. And apparently a Hollywood exec threw his coffee at the screen and went 'There's no damn ending - why did I watch it!' But anyway, I felt that with this one, I wanted to keep the mystery of the hysteria, the mass psychogenic illness, so people could even go away with their own ideas about what causes the girls to do that. But I did want to give a kind of hope and ending for Lydia and her mum. I didn't want to leave these 16 year old girls in a kind of esoteric world, you know, where they're just cool... It was important to me to have Lydia, even though she's had a difficult time, survives, and you feel that she will go on. In fact, now, in my head, she lives in Brighton with her girlfriend. 


BH: Oh, I love that ending. 

CM: So I did think about where people were now. And I think it would be awful to give this young woman all these possibilities, even though she's going through a difficult time, then kill her off. So I didn't want her to die. So it's like, Abbie dies, which I'm not telling anyone, and we're not mentioning the incest either - I feel like that's better! - even though she's been through difficult times there is some light at the end of it. And there is a connection made with her mother. That was quite important to me. 

BH: Question down here? 

Q2: Hello - one character I haven't heard you speak about much is Kenneth Nevercan… 

CM: We love Kenneth 

Q2: Yeah! I thought he was a really interesting one because he's sort of an ironic outsider but then actually sometimes the irony seems to slip a bit. That scene where they're laughing together and then suddenly it seems as though he's being drawn in. And I just wondered how you kind of developed him, and yeah, the process behind that? 

CM: So I think Kenneth Nevercan, I felt, so obviously the film is set in 1969 and I was looking at ideas around, you know, what was circulating so it was like Aleister Crowley and the occult and Ouspensky and ley lines. A book had come out in 1969 on ley lines. And also I thought most of the people, I feel everybody in this film is, none of them have been to the Kings Road, apart from Kenneth in my head, whose gone once. So, I thought he was like the cool guy, a bit, you know. And he's like... But he's still needy, so I think that slippage is that, although he comes across a little bit like, you know, the one that knows and that, he has his own neediness too and his own sense of being an outsider. But I love Kenneth Nevercan and the magic with a 'k'. Someone came to see the film who went to boarding school in New Zealand and she went, 'There weren't a lot of men around' and any man, she said, around they were after. Whether it was a 78 year old gardener or the...yeah! So I think that Kenneth has that thing where he can sort of flirt - so I like him a lot. But yeah, so it was, I think about this mass hysteria going on and then looking closely at that relationship between brother and sister and sister and mother and sort of clinging on to those family things. 

BH: Go for it 

Q3: Like an immediate parallel that I drew from the film was, the very short novel, The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Gilman. And when I think about hysteria that's immediately what I go to. And I was wondering if you brought any of that, or if that was an influence at all? 

BH: Ripe for a remake 

CM: I know! Well, someone asked me, I can't remember where I was, but someone mentioned Yellow Wallpaper as well and I said I was going to pretend that it had been an influence but I haven't, I think I did read it a long time ago when I was... 

BH: We all read it 

CM: We all read it! You read it to me, I seem to remember. 

BH: Probably! 

CM: But I don't, you know, it wasn't something that sort of featured up here. But I think you do sort of read stuff and it enters into your work somehow, what you do. I'm going go and read it again and then I'll tell you. But I think that the idea of trying to reveal things and trying to find yourself - is that the Yellow Wallpaper? She goes mad in the bedroom, doesn't she? 

BH: Yeah, that's right 

CM: In fact, when I was, I went to art college, the tutor there, Tina Keane made a film about The Yellow Wallpaper, so I definitely remember watching that, yeah. But yeah, I can't answer it. It's a bit disappointing! 

BH: It's a good question though. A few lines back, yep? 

Q4: Hello Carol, you're so funny. You are one of the funniest people that I know and you make such sad and poignant films sometimes. And you talked about, there have been screenings of The Falling where people have laughed and you don't mind. And I just wondered about you and genre and humour because, you know, Dreams of a Life is heartbreaking, and this has got such sincerity and something so serious and then you're so silly! And I just, what about you, and comedy... 

CM: I think I'm the modern day Margaret Rutherford. 

 I don't know, you see, I think I am drawn to the dark side of life, definitely. But, and I want to explore it but I don't want to render people, kind of terrorised by it! Most of our lives are made up so many different aspects, you know, I personally in my own way I approach life, is a personal responsibility to not bring someone else down. Do you know what I mean? 


BH: So make some comedies then! 

CM: Yeah! But then, you know if I made a comedy no one would find them funny because, I don't know... But maybe I will. But I think, no, I just like telling stories the right way. So, with Dreams of a Life, it felt that Joyce had lit up a room and she'd been a funny person, so while her end was sad, her life had not entirely been sad so, and I think that's for most people. So I think life and the components, it's not, without tragedy you don't have comedy and without comedy you don't probably have tragedy. Because people laugh at the weirdest things. So when this film screened at Flare, apparently people were rolling in the aisles. And I think this is maybe because it's, in a way, a transgressive film, it's sort of pushing you, and not telling you how you should feel or laugh here or laugh there, so I just love the idea that people were laughing all over the place. And I think also, laughter is an emotion and I think if you can elicit an emotion from an audience you're getting somewhere because you want connection. Because, a film without an audience doesn't exist, you know. So, I rock up places and people go, 'You made Dreams of a Life?! I thought you'd be really miserable!' 


You know, and then I think, Oh, I don't know. But yeah, I'm not exactly, you know, going to make a bubbly film, exactly, I don't think I ever could. But, a lot of laughs could be had in my next one. Or not... I'm still thinking about Yellow Wallpaper. 

BH: We'll come back to it 

CM: Yeah, OK. I'll try and think of something good 

Q5: Hello - I'd like to ask you about the soundscape which I found incredibly remarkable. It's not just Tracy Thorn's music but it's the overlapping sound and the layers of sound. Can you tell me a little bit more about how you worked that out, was that something you'd planned in advance? Was that something that came out in the edit? Because it was phenomenal. 

CM: Actually, the script that I did, that Kathryn Castles worked on, they said it was overworked. Over descriptive - do you remember? Because I had all these instructions about sound and all this stuff, and because I've always loved sound in film and it's, obviously it's half the film, and if you look at something like Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock, or any kind of supernatural films, which this is sort of leaning to as well, the use of sound to create a mood is very very important. So, we started to work, me and the editor Chris White, started to work with sounds very early on. And in fact, there were people on set recording sounds because, specifically sound effects if you like, because the school itself we filmed in had been unoccupied for 18 years and was very haunting. So they actually, rather than just go to a library of sound effects, they were going around recording weird stuff like, chalk scratching, stuff you wouldn't know exactly what it is but, I think most of the sounds in one way or another come from the world of the film, but might not appear so. And then Paul Davis, who worked on We Need to Talk About Kevin, was the sound designer on it as well. So it really, I felt it was very important to create that visceral idea and the breathing, and getting inside someone through the sound. Yeah. 

Q6: Why did you choose to set it where you set it? And how long did it take for you to look to find your tree? Because you kept coming back to the tree 

CM: The tree is a whole story... 

Q6: Did you first find the tree? 

CM: Well, I set it in 1969 because a lot of mass hysterias around that time that I'd read about seemed to be connected to sexual anxiety and I thought, this is a film about sexual awakening and also I felt like the 60s were almost an adolescent era. I did find it really funny in the research I did that man had landed on the moon but in 1969 you couldn't get a press on sanitary towel. Women still had to wear big belts. You know, and that sort of incongruence, two worlds colliding, so, I love that idea. And thirdly is was to the benefit that we didn't have to have social media in it and people on phones. But then the tree, right, that was funny, because I found the tree online because I'd been looking in Oxfordshire. I know, I'm doing it a lot - modern technology has served me well, hasn't it! But, there's a festival called the Wilderness Festival, in this Cornbury Park? Cornbury Park. And people were jumping off the tree into the ponds and, we went to see it, but from a kind of financial point of view, it wasn't pleasing to some people. Not Cairo, Cairo went for it, but as producer, but it was an hour away from our location. So one day, the location guy went, 'I'm really sorry, they've made me search for a new tree for you', right. And he took me to this tree, that was about, you know, I don't know, this distance to the back from water, on its own in a field. And it was just really boring. And the production designer and Agnes was there, and we all stood around this tree and went 'Huh'. And then that was the end of that conversation. So, the tree, I remember just visiting the tree for the first time and it's a magical place, it's a magical tree, it's a very old English oak. In fact, I hadn't really seen it online, I'd seen sort of pictures of the general vicinity, but when we got there they said the games keeper was going to come and meet us and I thought he'd be some 80 year old guy on a tractor and it was this sort of, you know, hunk of a twenty year old. And he went, 'I know what you're looking for' and drove us to that tree in one of those things. It was brilliant. But so yeah, that was the tree. And the tree to me is like a proper person. And we didn't scratch into it. That's all a tree prosthetic. We didn't hurt the tree. 


BH: No trees were hurt 

CM: I learnt about tree prosthetics, as well. 

Q7: A couple of quickies - I wonder how you landed on the title, The Falling? And I know there's an album by Carmel of the same title, I wonder if there's any connection with that? 

CM: What from Manchester? The Carmel? 

Q7: Yeah... 

CM: Oh, Carmel! Do you remember Carmel? 

BH: Yeah 

Q7: It's a brilliant album you should check it out! And also, I saw a Luc Roeg accredited and I wonder if it's any relation to Nick Roeg of Walkabout fame? 

CM: Well, Luc Roeg is in Walkabout. He is Nick's son and he is the little boy in Walkabout, he plays the boy in it. So that is him, yeah. And in fact, Luc invited his Dad to see the film. And I said, 'Does your Dad normally say anything about the films you've been involved in?' and he said no, but I got a letter, well an email from Nick Roeg, which I printed out and is framed, well on my mantelpiece. Because he said 'Congratulations on a very original film, Nicholas'. But the Carmel thing, I didn't know, yeah I remember Carmel because there weren't many - we're from Stockport, we're actually from the same, we didn't go to the same school but - she went to that nice grammar school - but, Carmel was like, very few women came out of the music business. But I hadn't remember the... But The Falling it was for me like, I came on it quite soon and it represented so many things, like falling in love, fall from grace, I knew they were falling from the tree and then the fainting so it felt like, I think a film title you just want people to understand. You know, like Dreams of a Life was, you know, dreaming of Joyce's life, my dreams of life, the audience's dreams of life, and I think The Falling for me, even though it's not the most original title in the world, in some ways because there's The Fall, and Emma, our social media person, says on my Google Alerts it keeps coming up 'Falling oil prices'. So I think she wished I'd called it something else 


But on the other hand, it's like, it works, it's almost biblical in a way, The Falling, so it's sort of quite a big thing I think. But I'm going to go back and listen to Carmel, actually. 

BH: Yeah me too - I'd forgotten all about it! Stick with The Falling for one second, the actual falling, the fainting, the choreography, tell us about that. 

CM: So there were, well there was the falling from the tree that we had a stunt person for. That was the only thing I storyboarded from the film because it's like health and safety of how you're going to do it all. But the actual fainting and falling, we had a movement coach, Sue Lefton, who actually would have been the age the girls would be now. So, she was brilliant because she'd say, you wouldn't say that, you wouldn't do that, and this as well - so she'd give them posture things as well of how they did that. But I didn't want them falling on mats because I wanted to film the floor. So she taught them how to fall straight onto a floor. So they started slowly, we did a few workshops. Maisie said they had lessons in the house every Thursday, but I think she's exaggerating now, but maybe they did. But, they started slowly and you would learn to fall on soft parts of your body and then get faster and faster. I can't say... they did have bruises. But they were cool about it. But they did have a few bruises. But they didn't hurt themselves in any way. And I think it's going to be a gift for life, because... 


BH: Falling cleverly... 

CM: Because you could be in a queue and just have a go... And like, get to the front of the queue. So I think it was worth it. But Sue Lefton got them to try and find their own way of falling so it was unique to them. 

BH: OK, well, beautifully done. And fantastic to give them some extra skills in life. 

CM: I know! 

BH: Carol, thank you so much. Congratulations so much on such a brilliant film. 

CM: Thank you Briony [applause] 

BH: Carol Morley! CM: Thank you... 

EEJ: Thanks for listening to this Barbican ScreenTalk with Carol Morley. If you'd like to hear more, and support film at the Barbican, please subscribe to this podcast via iTunes or Acast. Or, visit And we'd love to know what you think, talk to us on social media at @barbiancentre.

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