Phil Malcolm shares his impressions of Neil Jordan in conversation at the Irish cultural centre as part of "Commencez ! Paris Beckett” festival.
Film director, screenwriter and novelist Neil Jordan is perhaps best known for his films The Crying Game (Oscar for best original screenplay), The Company of Wolves, The End of the Affair (BAFTA), Michael Collins (Golden Bear Venice), The Butcher Boy (Silver Bear Berlin) and Mona Lisa (BAFTA). But it is his connection with Samuel Beckett which brings him to Paris as part of the inaugural Beckett festival in Paris: he directed the much acclaimed short film Not I (based on Beckett's play) starring Julianne Moore in 2000.
In fact much of the conversation centred on Jordan’s recently published novel The Drowned Detective, set in an imagined decaying eastern European city it explores the themes of betrayal and jealousy.
The protagonist is based on a private detective Jordan met on a flight but he made him English saying he’s tired of writing Irish characters. The story revolves around the search for a missing girl but is also an exploration into the nature of couples and dysfunctional marriages: the detective’s wife cheats on him.
“Jealousy and a sense of betrayal gets in the way of everything“.
It is a crime novel with a plot that needed a strong structure and interestingly he says that despite the fact that he wears several hats – “There’s no law that says you can’t do two things”, Jordan normally keeps his worlds of writing fiction and making films separate.
“Filmic is normally something that shouldn’t be said about a book.“ I questioned this, asking if he thought literature a higher art form than film and his response:
Words are more reliable than films – fiction is more respectable somehow. The shape of the sentence matters very much.
"Words are more reliable than films – fiction is more respectable somehow. The shape of the sentence matters very much."
Of course he was playing to his audience – they were here at a Beckett festival so they were bound to agree. Beckett would never allow Waiting for Godot to be made into a film because he was so specific about his stage instructions. When prompted to discuss his relationship with the writer further he somewhat brushes it off saying:
"Everybody has the need to tell the world that he, and he only, understands Beckett."
Returning to his novel he says: “I like to start with one thing and turn it into something else. It’s a pleasure to go somewhere that you would never have thought you could get to.” Referring to The Crying Game he says every time he moved the story to London it became so ordinary he couldn’t finish it so he asked himself: “What if I revealed the protagonist to be a man? Then it became a film about gender – transgender relationships as well as the Northern Ireland conflict.
What interests him is what’s behind people’s explanations and that’s why he says he is not a political writer.
Can’t wait to find out if he finds the girl……
Neil Jordan was in conversation at the Irish Cultural centre as part of the inaugural festival to celebrate Beckett in the city where he lived so long and wrote so much.