As part of the Raindance Film Festival in London, writer, producer and director Elfar Adelsteins screened his short film, Salicloth, which is under consideration for Oscar nomination.
Sailcloth shares the story of an elderly widower (John Hurt) as he sets in motion a series of events to hide his disappearance from a Nursing home on the South Coast of England. After gathering necessities he heads to the local pier where a beloved companion awaits him, ready for their last great journey.
FAB caught up with the film’s creator, Elfar Adalsteins, after the screening to ask him about the short.
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FAB: At the end credits the words ‘In loving Memory of my Grandfather’ appear across the screen, could you explain the significance of that?
Elfar Adalsteins: I was raised by my Grandfather in a small fishing village on the rural coast of Iceland. He passed away three years ago in a nursing home. It took six long years for him to finally make that journey. I think that it was his biggest fear in life not being able to cater for his simplest needs. The irony of his life was that this was exactly what happened. Essentially, I wrote him an alternative exit.
FAB: One of the early shots is of bed sheets and the wedding ring that the character is wearing. Can you explain a bit about this?
Adalsteins It was quite straightforward and the whole idea for the film came to me from the sheets. It became a non-dialogue film which wasn’t particularly my choice, it just happened. The preparation took a long time as it was a complex shoot. I mean we were setting things alight and flooding things with water. We were working with an A-lister [John Hurt] in a very limited amount of time. We shot the whole thing in five days with John around for four.
Adalsteins: The concept of loneliness and how you deal with it sits at the film’s at the core. His wife is dead and gone, but he still obviously wears his wedding ring so maybe she’s still alive for him.
FAB: Why did you feel that the ending had to be so sad?
Adelsteins: Good question. I’m not sure that I saw it as sad when I wrote it. For me, he had to be joining his wife. Not to give anything away but the the first notion of suicide came when John [actor John Hurt] said to me that it makes suicide almost a joyous occasion. And I suppose that’s controversial.
FAB: In many ways the film brings up the whole self-euthanasia debate.
Adalsteins: Yes, that was unintentional but I welcome the discussion. It is certainly a discussion that need to take place.
FAB: As you were making the film did you have that debate on your mind?
Adalsteins: No. ‘Suicide’ never popped into my mind. This was magical realism and almost a love-story for me. And it didn’t have a sad ending because I write through the eyes of the character and to him he’s definitely going to join his wife. And when the charcter has decided that his life has come to an end I just get out of his way. He does what he wants to! It’s a strange process but that’s the method I choose to use when writing.
FAB: I noticed that on the credits the little boy in the film has your surname.
Adelsteins: Yes, he’s my son. There’s a personal reason for that – you can read between the lines but it written into the film and that’s a moment in the film that I cherish the most.
FAB: What about the team that you worked with?
Adelstein: Working with John was a great experience. He’s the kind of actor who gives back to the industry, supporting upcoming directors in their work. I think it’s the only time he’s be behind a project and not used his voice – I mean he has a very distinctive voice. He was tremendously supportive both emotionally and when we were shooting – he was even doing his own stunts! For a small project like this you can imagine how great it was to see him bring it to life and give it veracity.
FAB: Is this the UK première of the film?
Elfar: This is the European première of the film. It premiered at the Rhode Island Film Festival last August and was awarded the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film. Which meant that it automatically got recommend for the Oscars. This is only the second public screening and after this it’s going to travel for the next 12 months.
FAB: Does it make you nervous?
Adelstein: The first time I screened it yes. But not so now. It’s out there now, I’ve let go, and people can pass their own judgement.
FAB: How do you find the atmosphere at the Raindance festival?
Adelstein: The dynamic in the room is different and I think that’s because of the younger demographic here watching.
FAB: One of the most emotive element of the film is the music, please can you tell me a bit about this.
Adalsteins: The music is all home grown. One of my best-friends wrote the music and we partly recorded it at his homestudio and part at the Pinewood studios. When the cellist was playing she cried her eyes out because she saw the end of the film as she was recording and made the cello cry too. The London Telefilmonic Orchestra gave a public performance of the music from the film too.
FAB: So we might be seeing a soundtrack out soon?
Adalsteins: Well probably not but it was good to hear the music live.
Sailcloth will be on general release in Spring 2012