New low-budget British film brilliantlove has been labelled one of the most sexually explicit films to come out of the UK in years. Central Station talks to its director Ashley Horner about the difficulties of casting such a project, his reasons for showing such graphic sex on screen and how he was influenced by queer cinema.

How would you describe brilliantlove?

As a love story that isn’t afraid to show all facets of an intense romance.

What has the reaction been to the sexual content of the film?

Outraged in the US, a little prudish in the UK, but generally it’s been considered a realistic and beautiful depiction of a young couple in love, making love.

What did you want to explore through the depiction of sex in the film?

At one stage the film was called EROTOLOGY and Sean Conway, the screenwriter and I were very interested in making a film that explored sexual love and lovemaking, within the context of what makes something erotic and the difference between the erotic and the pornographic. But actually in the film we wanted the actual ‘sex scenes’ to be about moving the narrative on and deepening the characterisation and relationship between Manchester and Noon. At the same time as providing motivation for the story, with Manchester documenting the affair with his photography.

British cinema has an uneasy relationship with sex onscreen was it your intention to challenge and explore that?

Absolutely, over the last ten years I’ve seen a lot of European and Asian cinema, and that European realist tradition never shies from all facets of a relationship or event. I was guilty of it in my first film, being coy about the act of sex in a scene. I felt it was time to make a film with a strong narrative, which also explored a sexual, loving relationship.

How did you go about casting? Was it difficult given the nature of the roles?

Almost impossible. The script was very explicit, in fact more explicit than the finished film. It scared agents and casting directors immensely. And consequently it made the casting process a lot simpler, as about 90% of the actors in the UK were immediately ruled out. I cast the film myself, via spotlight and casting call pro, I hid nothing and those that were interested were shown the full screenplay before they were invited to a casting. One agent called me up and said: “Now you can be straight with me, is it a porn film?”. It made me laugh out loud.

You use audio clips of the female character Noon telling explicit stories – how did you come up with this device and what did you want it to achieve?

When we were first writing the screenplay, my plan was to make a film that didn’t have a lot of dialogue in it, but at the same time we wanted to give both characters depth without having them talk all the time. The dictaphone diary became a way of adding another layer to Noon’s character at the same time as playing with the narrative, as the dictaphone voiceover jumps around in time. The idea came about during a session on the script in Berlin, where we were discussing things that you write about when you are really crazy over someone. Letters don’t work in movies and the dictaphone voiceover became a powerful device that frames the film.

What is your favourite scene in the film?

When I was shooting it was the scene where Manchester marks his territory by pissing on a fence, once he has spoken to Franny on the payphone. When I watch the finished film I really enjoy the scene where Noon goes to visit her Dad and he tells the story of his new penknife.

Were there any films that you were influenced by in the making of the film?

I looked at quite a lot of queer cinema, which is much braver than straight cinema when it comes telling love stories. I found a VHS at a car boot, about 3 months before we shot, it was a Japanese film called A Woman called Abe Sada made in the mid 70s by Noboru Tanaka, and while it wasn’t an influence, it was a fascinating take on what makes an erotic film, especially one shot in a confined space.


brilliantlove is currently showing at selected cinemas across the UK. Find out more at