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GIFFONI EXPERIENCE 2015 - 17.26 July

Sections & Films


Category: Edition 2015

It’s 1969 at a strict English girls’ school where charismatic, rebellious Abbie and intense, troubled Lydia are best friends. After a tragedy occurs at the school, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out threatening the stability of all involved.
Within the volatile, eerie atmosphere of the school and her troubled home life, Lydia is driven to discover the truth behind the mystery whilst holding onto her fragile friendship with Abbie. Before long, the condition begins to spread throughout the school community and when Lydia’s own symptoms worsen, she rallies against the school’s authorities to find and remove the underlying cause before it’s too late.

Original Title THE FALLING
Category Official Competition
Section Generator +16
Tipology Feature Film
Duration 102'
Production Year 2014
Nationality United Kingdom
Directed by Carol Morley
Screenplay Carol Morley
Director of photography Agnès Godard
Editor Chris Wyatt
Production Design Jane Levick
Costume Design Sian Jenkins
Sound Paul Davies
Music Tracey Thorn
Main cast Maisie Williams (Lydia)
Florence Pugh (Abbie)
Maxine Peake (Eileen)
Greta Scacchi (Miss Mantel)
Monica Dolan (Miss Alvaro)
Anna Burnett (Susan)
Produced by Cairo Cannon, Luc Roeg

IMG 9161R Carol Morley Photo by Paul Marc Mitchell OKCarol Morley
Born 1966, Stockport (England). In 1993 she graduated in Fine Art Film and Video from the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with two diploma short films, GIRL and SECONDHAND DAYLIGHT. Then she made the short films I’M NOT HERE (1994) and THE WEEK ELVIS DIED (1997). In 2000 she shot the documentary THE ALCOHOL YEARS. After the short films EVERYDAY SOMETHING (2001), RETURN TRIP (2001), STALIN MY NEIGHBOUR (2004), THE FEAR OF TRILOGY (2006), THE MADNESS OF THE DANCE (2006), she directed her first fiction feature film, THE EDGE. In 2011 she made the documentary feature film DREAMS OF A LIFE.

Director’s statement
“The inspiration for THE FALLING came in 2006 when I made a short film called THE MADNESS OF THE DANCE featuring Maxine Peake about mass hysteria or mass psychogenic illness as it’s more correctly titled. I widely researched the subject matter and I found that while there are set patterns that are used to identify a mass psychogenic outbreak, there is still a lot of mystery attached to them. Medical doctors can’t entirely understand why people exhibit certain physical symptoms. The recent case at Leroy High School in the USA, which manifested as a twitching epidemic, divided many involved. Some saw the schoolgirls’ illness as linked to a historic chemical spill, some saw it as entirely psychological. I became fascinated by the idea that mass psychogenic illnesses are steeped in mystery and contradiction and I felt this would be a great subject for a film. I was also intrigued that they mostly happen amongst people of a similar age, in single sex institutions, such as convents, girls schools and army barracks, but that on the whole they mostly affected females. This idea of female collectivity was of great interest to me. I felt that a film that looked at a group of young women at the centre of an outbreak could be compelling. Some studies have shown that mass psychogenic illnesses are to do with unconsciously admiring another person who has symptoms and this is how the disorder spreads. This made me want to create a powerful and charismatic girl at the centre of a fainting epidemic. Studies also show that there is often an incident that incites the outbreak, hence the tragedy that occurs in THE FALLING.

“Mass psychogenic illnesses can be seen to represent the anxieties of their time. Nowadays they are often reactions to food or chemicals. I felt that 1969 was a perfect year to set THE FALLING, as it seemed like a very adolescent time which mirrored the teenagers in the film. For me it was also important not to show a clichéd view of the Swinging Sixties. Many people, like Eileen (Maxine Peake, Lydia’s mother in the film), and the deputy headmistress (Greta Scacchi), are still stuck in the forties and fifties. Also, I think there was much anxiety at that time around shifts in how female sexuality was displayed and represented, and so it fit to build a mass psychogenic illness in THE FALLING that seems to be a display of rapture and is sexual in nature, represents rebellion and therefore threatens the adults. It was the year that man landed on the moon, and I wanted to integrate the moon as a powerful symbol. It’s also majorly ironic that at the same time man lands on the moon, Eileen can’t leave her house. Eileen is trapped in her domestic space, while man is conquering space!

“1969 is a fascinating year, and I am interested in creating a dynamic portrayal of the age, beyond the ‘swinging’ sixties. While 1969 was a time when many bemoaned the introduction of a new fifty pence coin, it was also the year man when possibilities seemed endless. In fact it could be seen as an adolescent period. My characters are emblematic of the time, teenagers trying to reach out for new, unexplored ways while the adults look back, unable to relinquish the past.

“1969 was a time when conversations among teenagers about the occult and philosophy and free love were all the rage and I wanted to bring that into the film. For me there is something supernatural about mass psychogenic outbreaks, they are so potent and mysterious. I made sure I included a lot of differing trails in the film that people can follow, and so come to their own conclusions about why the outbreak occurs. I hope that some people do believe there is something other-worldly about the events that occur, that there is another force at work. I also incorporate lots of Carl Jung’s ideas into the fabric of the film and at one point Lydia’s brother, Kenneth (Joe Cole), reads a direct quote of Jung about the collective unconscious and finishes with: ‘Old secrets rise to the surface’. For me this is the heart of the film.

“All of my films are interested in the importance in life of constructing an identity. When Lydia says to the psychiatrist that she thinks each individual is actually three people: the person that others see; the person you think you are; and the person you really are – she is absorbed in a profound sense of what a person really is”.

BBC Films
BFI - British Film Institute
Cannon and Morley Productions

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