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If you were walking alone in the woods and came across an abandoned railway tunnel, would you walk in?
In Alex Garland’s psychological horror movie, “Men,” there’s an obvious answer.
The film (now in theaters) stars Jessie Buckley as Harper, a woman who has escaped to a retreat in the English countryside to process the recent death of her husband. In this scene, she has been on a peaceful walk and comes across a railway tunnel. She does indeed walk in, sparking some surprising, and haunting, moments.
“I was just trying to create an extended sequence, with just one person, nobody talking essentially, because she’s on her own and just enjoying the space,” Garland said, “and then having the space turn on her.”
While in the tunnel, Harper realizes the acoustics are great and sings some notes that echo back. She sings more notes and realizes that she can create harmonies, and a sort of song, in the tunnel.
Garland recalled that the script didn’t go into this much detail (“It said, she makes an echo and the echo is a really good echo”), and that he was fretting about how he would execute the sequence. The idea of having Buckley sing notes that would create a melody materialized when he was driving to the set.
He said that on his film shoots, he likes to try to “stay alive to possibilities, not have things fixed in stone.”
“It’s quite an easy thing when directing, because there’s such a lot of anxiety about a day, because there’s been a lot of logistics and actors have prepared stuff and gaffers have prepared stuff and there’s lighting rigs and catering trucks and all sorts of things, to not be fluid, but to to follow through on the agreed plan. But within reason, I try not to do that. I try to stay light on my feet.”