Brendan Muldowney talks Pilgrimage

(L-R) Tom Holland as Brother Diarmuid - The Novice, Richard Armitage as Raymond De Merville, and Jon Bernthal as The Mute in the action film “PILGRIMAGE” an RLJ Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Kris Dewitte.

Brendan Muldowney, who directed the upcoming Pilgrimage, took some time recently to talk about the film with Solzy at the Movies.

Thank you for joining Solzy at the Movies today. How are things treating you?

Brendan Muldowney:  Excellent, thanks.

What was it that attracted you to Jamie Hannigan’s screenplay for Pilgrimage?

Brendan Muldowney:  It was a pitch first before a screenplay.  What attracted me was monks in the 13th century dragging a relic across island and then got into an ambush.  A couple of outlets there.  I liked that it had the religious views.  I loved the location.  It’s so simple, really enjoyable.  I love location scouting so I thought we had amazing locations to help (inaudible).  The period hasn’t really been portrayed—the 13th century has never been portrayed really in Irish cinema.  I love action cinema as well so it appeals to me—the intellect and the entertainment side.

The film explores a theme that exploits religion for power. Can you talk about that?

Brendan Muldowney:  That’s one of the main themes, I would say.  It discusses—in terms sometimes—that The Novice is very pure and he believes in—he sees G-d in nature.  He believes in people.  I suppose he’s never seen the (inaudible) in taking in the Normans, whether it’s when someone from the (inaudible) structure at the top of the Catholic Church—the Vatican.  When he arrives and starts, he sees monks that are on the edge of the world partly sort of (inaudible) themselves.  But in terms of power, what’s interesting is he doesn’t encounter religion.  Religion when a very cynical, political (inaudible) and the (inaudible) is looking for pure and sentimental and remember that I have to  play this like I totally believe in what I’m saying I’m doing.  It totally changed with an interesting sort of discussion about how the church is political with using religion for fear and on these lines (inaudible). It’s in there that he talks about fear of the church.  He very seldomly needed to play it like he truly believed in this.  I think that gives an edge to everything he does in the film.

I noticed that a large majority of the film was subtitled.  What was the decision behind not having most of it be in English?

Brendan Muldowney:  It’s not (inaudible) English because that was one of our conditions in delivering the film so we had to make sure that over 50% was in English.  The thought process at this stage was that it was going to be in Latin, French, and Irish.  So, no.  We wanted to be truthful to the times and English wasn’t around.  English hadn’t been spoken yet.  It hadn’t developed.  In the courts of England, they spoke French until they had been invaded by the Normans in 1066.  It was going to be authentic as possible and then the commercial considerations started to come into play.  Even before commercial considerations came into play, you do all look at each other and go, “Do we really make a film in Latin, French, and Irish?”

I think the writers got off (inaudible) and say that Latin isn’t the nicest sounding of languages and it’s not going to sound good.  That’s when we started to think of English as a replacement.  The other discussion there was how were we going to start speaking Latin and then do like The Hunt for Red October and I’ve seen it done a few other places where you just sort of morph into English so people know that okay, they’re speaking Latin when they’re speaking English.  The simple short answer your question, we were thinking authenticity but it also became part of the plot because this characters (inaudible) use language to hide secrets and use language to find out people’s secrets and use language in the film so it became bigger than just authenticity.

What’s so important about this stone that they are carrying on their journey from Ireland to Rome?

Brendan Muldowney:  They believe that this is a very special relic that they’re carrying.  They believe that, all through the film’s history, it goes back generations. They (inaudible) since.  As you hear in the film, the relic is sacred from (inaudible).  They’ve seen an angel striking at the (inaudible).  They believe that it has special powers, that it can use that when they’re in danger.  The Vatican has heard rumors of these powers and wants a bit of the action, believing it’s powerful enough that they can use it in these holy wars.  We were careful in the film in that can you sort of advanced that we show that we’re not thinkers.  You could either describe the value of it or rub it off as an act of nature.

How did the Irish scenery play into the cinematography?

Brendan Muldowney:  It was a huge part of it and a terrible location is not going look good.  Gordon Wycherley was, a lot of times scouting, a great location manager and he was to a lot of them.  He had this idea in mind that a monastery could be placed on the coast.  Once I saw it and how to run with it, (inaudible).  We had a set of room here (inaudible) and shoot in a 50 mile radius.  You can make that bigger with bigger budgets but we had a small budget.  We had to find in a 50 miles all the different variables that would have been seen in a trek across the country and that’s quite hard because we’re in a coastal area so then (inaudible), forest locations, which is known for its forests, and there are forests and much to be in Ireland in the 13th century.  Of course, the Irish location doesn’t have much to it, a part from the weather, which doesn’t always go according to plan.  The first day of shooting, we had gale force winds, rain, and then we had (inaudible) which a lot of those monsoons are gone now but in post-production, we had to work very hard to create storms and skies digitally.  We had to put them in.  We had to create it to look (inaudible) than it is so you just can’t tell how the weather’s going to be on the west coast of Ireland.

The film has an impressive cast that includes Tom Holland, Jon Bernthal, and Richard Armitage. Can you talk about what it was like to direct these actors?

Brendan Muldowney:  It’s sort of like directing any actor—any good actors.  They’re what they are: good actors.  When we were casting, they weren’t necessarily Spider-Man and Punisher.  Richard Armitage was Thorin Oakenshield.  Nobody’s different than the rest.  They’re good people.  They’re good actors.  They all got on board with the film.  They were down to earth.  They were moved to put themselves in discomfort.  They bonded with everybody.  Everybody bonded together and it helped themselves through difficult situations like being cold and standing in water.  They were all critics to what they did.  They knew when they got on board.  Jon went all silent for the first week of shooting.

Thanks again for your time.

Brendan Muldowney:  Okay, thanks.

After making its world premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, RLJ Entertainment will release Pilgrimage in select theaters, VOD and Digital HD on August 11, 2017.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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