19 October, 2009

Preview: "Murderland"

"One murder told from three perspectives.

Written by acclaimed writer David Pirie (Murder Rooms, Woman in White), and produced by Touchpaper Scotland, part of the RDF Media Group, Murderland is an emotional and passionate thriller that tells a traumatic murder story through the eyes of three central characters: Carrie, the daughter of the murdered woman, Hain (Robbie Coltrane), the detective in charge of the investigation and Sally, the murder victim.

Clever and compelling, Murderland poses the question - can you move on from terrible unexplained events that befall you as a child, and grow up to make a new life? Or will you be forever trapped, haunted, unable to live fully until you know the truth?"

David Pirie, screenwriter:

"Only children can visit Murderland, only children feel the real terror at its heart. And when they return they aren’t children any more.”

As with all scripts, ‘Murderland’ had many starting points. The above quote about how the proximity to murder can affect children and adolescents, ending their childhood, was one. Another was the Roxette song ‘Joyride’ from the 90s, which had always haunted me with its slightly eerie lyrics

“It all begins where it ends / And we’re all magic friends”

And there was an image that stayed with me, the image of a wedding dress abandoned in a toilet stall. The abandoned dress made the cut, the toilet stall and the song didn’t.

But even more important than the above were two sets of discussions. One with the producers notably Kate Croft which led directly to the script and continued throughout development, and through production. The other, with Robbie Coltrane, has been ongoing for years. Both of us shared a passion for film noir and had often talked of the sort of things we wanted to see on TV. But Robbie was always more critical of Hitchcock than I was, feeling the man’s flaw was that he dealt in obsession and not in love. In ‘Murderland’ we wanted to have both.

The story subsequently took shape in three parts with three perspectives, each episode having a singular point-of-view which meant that the same scene often appeared slightly differently and with a different emphasis. This was one of the challenges, making that work dramatically, delivering new and pleasing information and dramatic reveals each time.

At the heart of it was Carrie Walsh a thirteen year old girl who comes close to witnessing the murder of her mother and subsequently puts her faith in the detective investigating the case, the troubled, conflicted Douglas Hain. Carrie is experiencing the heightened crime-obsessed state, familiar to psychologists, that has been chronicled so brilliantly by James Ellroy in his autobiographical book ‘My Dark Places’. And, as with Ellroy, years later the grown up Carrie finds she simply cannot go on until she has discovered more of the truth. But, as almost all definitions of film noir point out, the truth is so often shrouded in moral and sexual ambiguity. And the grown up Carrie has no idea at all of how far she will have to go to reach it…."

Robbie Coltrane:

"David Pirie and I talked about the idea for Murderland some years ago and making television we’d like to watch - it was as simple as that really.

We talked about what gripped us and what has particularly gripped us about film noir and Hitchcock and all those things. It’s the idea of characters who are in some sort of conflict and appear to be one thing but may in fact be something else, characters who confuse the audience in one sense and then treat them in another. The story throws up enormous moral conflicts."

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