(To Martha): With three of the Fiennes family involved in the making of this film -you
two and your brother Magnus writing the music - it looks like a family project... so why
was Joseph left out?
(Martha): because Joseph is a terrible actor! (laughs) No, Joseph was shooting Shakespeare
in Love at that time. And as far as this film being a family project, we never meant it to
be so. It sort of happened. I like working with Magnus because I've done it so many times
previously in commercials and I trust him completely and work well with him.
(To both Martha and Ralph): Working with your siblings isn't always an easy experience,
but you two seem to get on very well. What do you give to each other when you go through
an experience like this together...
(Ralph): Well Martha and I tease each other and we're good at criticising each other in a
constructive way. We laugh a lot and Martha teases me a lot, which is good because it
helps me to take myself less seriously. And I hope I do the same for her. She's always
flashing pictures of her children (they both laugh) and I am always very bored by it (more
(Martha): He rolls his eyes, but just pretends to be bored...(laughs)
(Ralph): So I think we are affectionate though teasing, taking the mickey out of each
other. I think we're not very demonstrative. We're not hugging and kissing all the time.
Maybe that's very English. I am not very tactile. I tend to keep a certain distance,
especially with people I don't know well. It must be my English inheritance ... but behind
a close doors I am a demon ... (laughs).
(To Martha):Why did you choose to move from music videos and TV commercials to cinema?
I went to film school knowing from a very early age that I wanted to direct films, but its
not the easiest thing to do. You can work for years developing projects, and indeed I was
attached to projects, but just to get your first film is very difficult. It was always my
intention to direct films. Anyway, when I left film school I happened to fall into making
music videos and commercials; I was offered to do that, I didn't chase the industry. I
earned my living by working in that industry and I've enjoyed it very much. I maybe could
say that it helped me develop a language in cinema that interested me. And it's a visual
language. But it was never my raison d'etre to make music videos and commercials.
So the final frontier for me was in the feature area. And of course when Ralph first asked
me to read this book, because he loved it, I was immediately possessed by it and that's
how it all started.
(To Martha): But how does one go from a video clip to Pushkin, adapting a Russian novel
in verses from the 19th century into cinematic language?
People often ask me this. But this film is the product of eight years of work and it's a
huge landmark in my life, so it doesn't look like a fast transition from one media to the
other for me. I am sure that some people can recognise some style in the film, in the
visual and in the montage, that can be seen as similar to that of music videos. Anyway
this is a 19th century, lyrical, tender, very highly observed poem, so of course I am not
going to cut it like a rock'n'roll video. As far as the adaptation, I feel that is not
been a definite process for me, it's been very much about trials and errors, a very
natural, human, handmade process which happened over a long period of time.
(To Ralph) How did you develop the character...
(Ralph): Well, I trusted the emotions and the story of the film because they talk about
the human heart, but obviously we decided to be true to the period and not to update it. I
was always fascinated by history because I think that one can understand one's own time by
looking back at previous times, not just the historical events, but customs, manners,
attitudes. In the case of Onegin because he's such a dandy, I took a particular interest
with the two designers of the clothes in the fastidious details that Pushkin describes.
And we also incorporated that in developing the character; I wore a male corset which
holds you in a certain way, and the whole way the costumes of this period are styled
dictate something about your posture - and also about your personality. They have a sort
of peacock presentation about them. And it's not only the way it looks but also the
process of being dressed: you have to be so fastidious and use so much time to dress, and
I found that so useful. And for me, before we shot a scene, the process of getting dressed
was always a useful way into the character.
(To Ralph): The fact that the Onegin character is a mixture of Byron and Chekov, he is
arrogant at the beginning and desperate in the end, does this mirror the condition of the
western man of the new millennium?
(Ralph): Yes . . . I believe that there is a resurgence of characters like Onegin at this
time - I am thinking of more dangerous figures, like Valmont, for instance, in Dangerous
Liesons, or also more existential characters like Camus' The Stranger - because they are
kind of anti-heroic who exist only in the moment and have no overall ethical structures.
We see this spirit of desolation emerge in the late 20th century and proceed into the new
millennium and for me Tatyana is emotional innocence and emotional honesty, and what is
tragic about the story is that she suffers because of this.
When I read the poem I found it devastating, especially for its fatalistic quality -
and I think that it is a lament that reflects so much of Pushkin himself. He was a
passionate man, he was a revolutionary, provocative and he was led by is feelings, by his
heart. He wasn't a saint, but he was often despised and my feeling is that society can
suffocate passion and inspiration. I believe that this is typical of the artist and that
these are the people that we have to champion, because the painter, the musician, the
poet, even directors and actors are those who can speak to the passion, the true and
positive sensibilities of the heart. And I think hierarchy, structures, politics, intrigue
and the corporate world of today - which is the modern version of the St.Petersburg court
of Onegin's time - can suffocate the light of the mind and the light of the spirit.
(To Ralph): You are already a stage and movie actor and a producer - would you like to
direct as well, one day?
(Ralph): I would like to direct but I must say that having watched Martha and having gone
through the whole production process I have much more respect towards producers and
directors than I had before and I would not take on directing lightly now. I would have to
have a project that I am very passionate about and I would have to gather an army of
people around me who share my vision and truly collaborate with me. Otherwise it's just