“Nocturne” writer/director Zu Quirke is, together with three other great horror movies, part of the ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ series. The film tells a thrilling and sinister story about sisterhood, the harsh and cruel competition in the music world and what’s like to want to achieve your (unachievable) dreams. While the movie itself is very dark, the interview between our reporter Liselotte Vanophem and writer/director Zu Quirke was very light and fun. Check it out here.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Zu, congratulations on your wonderful film. Where did the story of the movie come from?
Zu Quirke (writer/director): Well, the story came from my own experiences. I grew up while being surrounded by classical music, and I took up the violin when I was four or five years old, and I practised it until I was eighteen. After that, I realized that it wasn’t for me. I didn’t have the discipline or talent to carry on in that world, and so I ended up in film. I never really forgot the kids I grew up with who did go into music. One of the things that always struck me was how those young people, who started playing music around the same age as me, decided from such a young age to dedicate their lives to something so old-fashion as classical music. Classical music isn’t just as competitive as any art form or more challenging to get into, but it just requires such a level of dedication that most people don’t have. You have to play it for many years on a very high level, and you have to give up your childhood to have a chance to make it. I guess that just fascinated me how someone could make that decision as such a young age and sacrifices everything for the love of something that might never love them back.
That’s what’s “Nocturne” is about really. It’s about this girl, Juliet (Sydney Sweeney), who finds herself on the brink of realizing her dreams aren’t possible. That the fantasies she grew up with aren’t going to become a reality. She has a choice to move on and finds something else she can do with her life. She’s intelligent and talented in many ways, and she could see many things that would make her happy, or she can cling onto this fantasy and try to make it come true at all costs. She chooses the latter, and I chose the first option. This movie was in many ways me exploring an alternative timeline.
LV: So did you put some real personal elements into the characters as well?
ZQ: Oh, yes, indeed. I think in Juliet the most that come from me is the competitiveness I had when I had that age. I remember feeling incredibly personally attacked when someone else got the solo that I wanted. I grew out of that, and I realized that it wasn’t a zero-sum game. I remember that feeling so distinctly, and I hope it makes its way into this movie.
LV: When looking back at the movie, what’s the scene that stuck with you the most
ZQ: I loved filming the scene in Dr. Cask (Ivan Shaw) house towards the end of the movie in which he delivers some home-truth to Juliet. It was one of the first scenes we shot in our 20-day production process. It’s quite a theatrical scene as there’s quite a lot of movement in it. It was really fun to explore the shift in power between the characters. There are moments during which you feel that Juliet is on top, and then there is a moment during which you feel that Cask is on top, and then it’s Juliet again. We wanted to show those movements and interactions between the characters. I think the scene plays well. I think it helps that Sidney and Ivan who play Juliet and Cask are fantastic actors.
LV: I asked this question to Ivan as well, and he told me that that scene was his favourite scene as well.
ZQ: Oh great! Ivan was such a pleasure to work with.
LV: How did the cast of this movie come together?
ZQ: Well, we ran the usual auditions. One of the key things when casting for this movie was that at the centre you got the sibling rivalry between Juliet and Vivian (Madison Iseman). Although we decided quite early on that we didn’t want them to be identical twins, it was still very important that it felt like they were twins and that they have known one and other their whole lives. We had chemistry castings in which actors read together to see how they worked with one and other and when Sidney and Madison, who both gave incredible performances, got together, we gave them the breakup scene. It’s the scene more towards the end of the movie in the dressing room. They did it like six or seven times during the audition. I kept asking for it again and again, and they must have been exhausted by the end of that. Again, it’s a scene were power switches quite suddenly between the characters. The way that Sidney and Madison interacted with each other made you feel like the girls had a very intimate knowledge of one and other. We eventually found out that they went to high school together, which is hilarious.
LV: During the whole filming of this movie, did it felt for you like your youth was coming back to life?
ZQ: A little bit. It helped that we went for pianists instead of violinists cause otherwise it would have taken me back to that whole competitive feeling and the world of deceit that I was stuck in as a teenager. I listened to a lot of classical music as a preparation for this movie, and I integrated some beautiful pieces of classical music in this film. It would be nice to know that anyone watching this movie will have listened to the wonderful music. I do think that classical music has a place in the modern world. I think it’s struggling to find that place at the moment, but if more young people would be exposed to classical music, I’m pretty sure they would find more join in that kind of music. I hope this movie plays a tiny part in that.
LV: “Nocturne” is part of the ‘Welcome to the Blumhouse’ movies, four horror films coming together. Were you able to check out one of the other three movies already?
ZQ: No, not yet, but I’m very excited about watching them.
LV: You mentioned that, after finding out that you don’t have the discipline to pursue a career in music, you went for a film career. But why precisely in film?
ZQ: Well, I’ve always loved movies, and I always loved writing. I started to write from a pretty young age, from six or seven. Writing and storytelling was always a big part of my life, and it helped me face my childhood demons a little bit. When I was nine or ten, I started to make these little movies as my father had one of those HD digital cameras, the very early and basic ones. Then I learned how to use post-production programs. However, it wasn’t until late in my teens that I realized that it was the thing that I wanted to do and that it was a viable career path and not just something that excited me.
LV: Are you already working on other films at the moment?
ZQ: Yes but sadly I can’t talk about it right now, which is a bit annoying, but I’m definitely working on things.
LV: Well, good luck with those projects and thanks a lot for this interview.