DashFUN met Shannon Murphy, the director of the very successful Milla, during the Marrakech Festival in December 2019. After multiple postponements, her feature film is finally released in theaters on July 28. Encounter.
DashFUN: Australian cinema is one of the oldest in the world. What makes it special?
Shannon Murphy: I would say that he stands out first of all for his sense of humor, which is unique. We find this in Milla. We get to explore comedy even in dark times. I would add that since we are an island country, we tend to think that we are lagging behind. So we do everything to be original (laughs). Finally, I would say that our landscapes are also different: the noise of nature, the animals … I find that fascinating. And then we have directors from all walks of life. I am happy that the Marrakech Festival (in 2019 editor’s note) is offering them a retrospective.
Milla is based on a play called Babyteeth (deciduous teeth). A metaphor that is spun throughout the film. Why this choice of title and what is its meaning?
I loved this metaphor. It’s rare, but our character still has a baby tooth. When you watch the movie, you think you understand its meaning up to a certain scene. When she finally loses it, it represents for the character a real transition in her life. It goes from child to adult. For her, it is a moment of pain but also of joy. This baby tooth shows how much her parents clung to her, overprotected her. She had to be herself and discover love for the first time, so that she was finally free.
I find that there is a close relationship between Milla (Eliza Scanlen) and the viewer. She often looks at the camera.
Yes, it’s true. I wanted to show the invigorating side of youth, which discovers the first love. The more the film progressed, the more I wanted to refocus on the character of Milla, her spirit, her strength … Let’s say that she is aware of all these things that happen to her. As I said above, the film is adapted from a play.
Did you think about changing the ending?
No really not. Especially since the play begins right at the end. I just changed that. This ending is really important. What I like about this story is that it is complicated and difficult.
The film also offers a particularly successful and worked soundtrack.
Oh thank you ! It was important because at this age we are obsessed with music. Our best memories sometimes revolve around that. There is a lot of passion. I wanted the viewer to feel that feeling again. We worked really hard to find the perfect soundtrack.
Ben Mendelsohn plays there a very human and touching character, him that we are more used to seeing in roles of antagonists. How did he join the project?
I knew her agent and she offered him the script. It was her first role in Australia since Animal Kingdom. Ben loved it, it reassured me (laughs). I would say it was special for him because he didn’t have to play a dark or unfriendly character. And he is also the father of a family, one of his daughters was also Milla’s age. He was able to connect to the character. And then beyond that, he’s a very funny person. So I knew the comedy aspect would be easy for him to play.
You have explained in various interviews that you regret seeing so few female directors. It seems to me that in Australia you are also campaigning for gender equality.
Yes, and moreover in the vast majority of productions, we are on a 50/50 male / female split, and at all levels: screenwriters, directors, costume designers … to land. So is diversity. It should be the norm everywhere. Those who are not part of this effort should be held to account.
What would be the solutions?
In Australia, we receive more money for our projects if equality is respected. Hope people will do it later without thinking about it. The problem is, some people still can’t imagine women in top positions. Today we give the floor to women so that they do not allow themselves to be fooled anymore. That’s what I do: I always work with female screenwriters because I find them better.
Interview in Marrakech on December 1 …