Guest Post

G. X. Todd – Movies that Inspired the Voices series: Location, Isolation and the Power of Silence

I’m delighted to share a guest post from the wonderful G. X. Todd with you all today, in which she looks at movies that inspired the Voices series.

In this post I’ll be exploring what movies inspired location and atmosphere, and will reveal the one actor I think should play Pilgrim in a movie adaptation.

Location and Isolation

In HUNTED, there’s a scene set inside a long-abandoned train station. Little more than a shack, it offers shelter to Lacey, Addison and Alex after a particularly harrowing encounter. I saw a version of this train station in a film called The Station Agent (2003) and immediately decided I needed to include it in a book somewhere. The movie stars the wonderful Peter Dinklage and Patricia Clarkson. Peter’s character inherits a disused train station after his friend dies, and it’s a complete wreck. Filled with crap and old worn-out furniture. But with nowhere else to go, Dinklage sets about making it liveable. It never becomes habitable in HUNTED, but the general aesthetic remains the same.

Isolation is a theme I return to a lot in my writing. Whether it’s psychological, social or physical, isolation often affects characters in similar ways. There are a few films I found particularly insightful when it came to this theme, but there are two I’d like to highlight. The first is Moon (2009), directed by David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones. It tells the story of a lone caretaker on a lunar station set up on the moon. Not only is this man alone (except for an AI called GERTY) but he is 240,000 miles away from earth and everyone he loves. It is a brilliant exploration into the resilience (or lack thereof) of the human psyche. How do we cope with loneliness? How far can we trust ourselves when we have no one but ourselves to trust? It’s a claustrophobic, paranoid-filled triumph of a film, and when it came to writing about differing forms of isolation in DEFENDER and HUNTED (Pilgrim’s isolation self-inflicted as a means of survival, Lacey’s through circumstance, Alex’s and Addison’s through misfortune), Moon’s was a great example to refer back to.

The second film is Let the Right One In (2008), and the isolation on show here is the kind I’d define as the isolation of “otherness”. Oskar is the bullied social outcast and Eli the “other”, a child who is mysterious and unsettling. They befriend each other because neither really understands where they fit in the world. Here, I found a story that highlighted difference. It explores how people react to things they don’t understand, how they push away the things they fear (or choose to accept them, as twelve-year-old Oskar does). How the things that scare us can also be the things that make us stronger, can protect us and help us see our true selves. All themes I want the Voices series to explore.

The Power of Silence

As a writer who doesn’t relish writing dialogue, silence is golden. It’s also a useful tool – sometimes you can say more about a character when he doesn’t say a word than when he says two dozen. Pilgrim is a man of few words, and Albus, a new character in HUNTED, is a man of zero. I enjoy the contrast of having a bodiless character like Voice, who expresses solely through dialogue, and Albus who only has his body and expressions to communicate.

3 Iron (2004) is South Korean film about Tae-Suk, an itinerant man who breaks into people’s homes and lives in them for a day or two while he mends the owners’ broken appliances and washes their clothes. He stumbles across an equally silent woman on another of his illegal entries; she lives with her abusive husband, and Tae-Suk allows her to accompany him when he leaves. The two eventually fall in love without once speaking a word to each other. It’s a surreal yet magical bit of filmmaking and proves you can tell an effective and beautiful story through non-verbal interaction alone.

The Garden of Words (2013, 46mins) is a short animated Japanese film and, although silence plays an important role, dialogue has a bigger part to play. Saying that, it still feels as though director Makoto Shinkai allowed himself only a minimum amount of words to tell his story and he lets the visuals do the rest. A student bunks off school to sit in a picturesque Tokyo garden during rainy season. There, he meets a woman eating chocolate and drinking beer. As they continue to meet (but only when it rains), they eventually begin speaking without ever exchanging names. Both are there because they are avoiding personal problems, though they don’t speak of them until much later. It’s a pleasure to watch a non-romantic, innocent friendship between a teenager and adult develop so simply.

Finally, we have Drive (2011). The protagonist is only ever referred to as “the Driver”. He has very little dialogue, with many of his interactions played out by looks and subtle facial expressions. And that’s where his strength lies: in the mystery. The viewer never learns more than what he or she sees onscreen, and it is precisely the not knowing that makes the Driver so interesting. All his dynamism is revealed in action: when he’s driving, when his violence spills over, and when he is holding himself back from acting on his impulses: his stillness in itself is action. It’s fascinating to watch, to have all your attention tuned into his presence rather than the sounds he makes. It’s a good technique to make an audience focus on exactly the things you want them to.

Finally, I promised to reveal who my number one actor to play Pilgrim is. It was in Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) that I saw Matthias Schoenaerts all beardy and rough-looking and thought ‘Holy crap, he’d make a perfect Pilgrim.’ It’s all in the eyes.

So there you have it – go and Google image search him – you’ll see what I mean.

Many thanks to Gemma for this wonderful guest post. Hunted will be published on 31 May and follows on from Defender which was published in 2017.

%d bloggers like this: