‘To encounter the unexpected’: Kate Fagan in Conversation with Miro Bilbrough

By and | 15 February 2023

KF: I was interested, Miro, that you spoke of Andrei Tarkovsky earlier in relation to your own filmmaking. So many of your characters announce themselves on the page through affective states of emotion. We don’t have a caricature for a person coming into the text – looking or sounding a certain way – they come into the text with a feeling. They come being scornful, or they come being disappointed, or they come being in a relationship of ‘slouchy sexuality’, another of your brilliant two-worders, this time, for a 15-year-old on a bus. Rather than representing these affective states, I wonder whether films need to generate what you called an ‘atmosphere’. They need to generate a way of receiving the conditions in which you can start to feel that emotion. I think that’s part of what this book does so beautifully, because you have full emotional range in the spaces between the words. That’s not necessarily marketable in film economies.

MB: I remember hearing Sebastian Barry onstage at the Wharf talking about the ‘tincture’ that a person has. That word, tincture, which I associate with homeopathic remedies, was so brilliantly deployed. I coveted it immediately. The way it suggests atmosphere and the solubility of an impression…essences and solubility. I knew what he was talking about. And that’s my impossible project too – how to capture the tincture of a person.

KF: This moves back to your comment about honouring people, allowing them to enter the narrative on their own terms. You don’t ‘claim’ many of these people, but just find ways to allow them to come in and resonate. That includes your mother and your sister, and the stories that are theirs to tell. You allow the tinctures of people to simply be present. As readers, we have to work this out.

MB: It’s sort of a riddle. The detective in me is trying to work out what the riddle is, the contradictions, the incongruities, the riddle of other people and how to represent them. That’s an endless occupation. One you could do forever.

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