First time director and screen writer, Mark Harris describes his new film ‘The Broken’ as a “Nil by Mouth” for the decade. It is evident whilst talking to him, that this film, as well as other types of British grit films are a clear influence to Harris. Interestingly, Nil By Mouth was also Gary Oldman’s directorial and writing debut. Harris, like Oldman, is known mostly for his acting roles and has starred in several British films including Anuvahood, Outside Bet and Offender.
Harris plays Matt Hollis, just released from prison, he attempts to rebuild his marriage after the death of his son. He decides to take his wife Allison (Anna Nightingale) and daughter to Los Angeles in an attempt to make things right between them all. However, not long after they arrive things go horribly beaten as Allison is viciously beaten and his daughter, Lara, is taken from her bed. Enlisting the help of an old friend, can Matt save his daughter in time before she becomes caught up in a dangerous world of child trafficking that she will be unable to get out of.
Putting other projects aside for the moment, he is focused on delivering the work.
Harris describes the film as ‘psychological and dark’. Most viewers will find the film intense, shocking and emotional but as the story is based on true stories from the Saving Innocence charity, it is important to get the horrific truth of child-trafficking out there. In some sequences, Harris refrains from explicitness, preferring to allow the viewer to dwell on the horrific possibilities themselves. The imagination is a powerful tool.
In seeing some of the footage of the upcoming film, it is clear that Harris likes to take his characters to the edge of insanity and back, pushing them, and himself, to the extreme. After the kidnapping of his daughter, the ex-alcoholic returns to booze and shouts to God in an almost monologue type sequence. Through acting, Harris is able to take himself to places he hasn’t been before. This is evidently freeing for him. He stated that he loves taking himself ‘to the edge of insanity’. This is a very emotional scene and is truly the image of a broken man. Can he come back from this? Harris notes how he wanted to keep this scene as long as possible and not break away from the emotion.
Whether acting, directing or writing, Harris praises creation and says ‘to create is the most gifted thing’ and says its ‘like being on a high.’ Although, his primary focus is acting, he thoroughly enjoyed the creative experience of writing and directing. Unsure if he even wants a premiere for his film and shying away from his title as director, Harris has to be one of the least egotistical filmmakers of the moment.
Watching the film, even though its set in L.A. it is evident that this is not a Hollywood film. What Harris has done, and what others have failed to do, is bring the Britishness and “grittiness” to Hollywood. Through combining national identities and conventions, Harris manages to do something truly unique. He took his film and his ideas to Hollywood and has managed to do British filmmaking justice. As he describes it, he was ‘flying the flag’. The Broken looks set to be another example of why we should all support British film. Although, I only saw some footage and not the entirety of the film, I can already say that the narrative is compelling and the experience is intense. When chatting with Harris, he was charming, funny and very passionate about his work which certainly comes through in the film. Harris is unsure of whether or not he will direct again. Acting is his main passion and is what he wants to really succeed in. After The Broken, I highly doubt that this will be a problem.