British director Harry Bradbeer is always seeking the truth when working with actors. "There's something about capturing life as it happens that, at the basis of my career, has always been about veracity of performance," he tells A.frame.
Bradbeer has made a name for himself in television, most notably directing the entirety of season two of Amazon Prime’s Fleabag, for which he won a Primetime Emmy for Best Director and another for Best Comedy Series in 2019. The series was known for Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) looking directly at the camera to comment on the action at hand. But, as the audience learned, the character wasn’t always being honest.
"That turn to camera isn't necessarily always a look of direct confidence or information," he explains. "It can be giving away a moment of fear or it can be reminding people that it's going to be alright, even [if] they look scared… In the case of Fleabag, she's often having difficulty being honest with us. She's got so much to hide. So, quite a lot of the time when she says, 'It's totally fine.' It's everything but. Or sometimes she will be utterly defiant, and then, give us a little look to the side to show another side of the picture."
The director once again utilizes this tool for his first two feature films, Enola Holmes and its sequel, Enola Holmes 2. In both, Millie Bobby Brown stars as Enola, younger sister to Sherlock Holmes, who, much like Fleabag, often turns to the camera to comment on the situation she's in. And Bradbeer admits he was hesitant to repeat the technique, but found support for the idea.
"It's a very flexible, useful tool, [but] the idea that the next film would involve breaking the fourth wall initially filled me with a certain amount of horror. I thought, 'Oh my God, what's Phoebe going to say?' Because it hadn't been in my idea; it was written in the script. And I was mixing Fleabag shortly after the script [for Enola Holmes] arrived, and I had said to Phoebe, 'So, I've got this script and it's about Sherlock Holmes. And, well, she looks at the camera… She talks to the audience.' And she said, 'Oh what, like Shakespeare?' She was saying, everybody's been doing it, we've been doing it for years."
Below, Bradbeer shares with A.frame five films that inspire him as a filmmaker and help him connect with his optimistic side, including a film that inspired elements of Enola Holmes 2.
Directed by: Roman Polanski | Written by: Robert Towne
God, I just think it's the most brilliantly structured story. It's fantastically directed by Polanski, who also had a bit of a hand in the writing of it as well. I think it's partly because it started with a 300-page script by Robert Towne, which just went on forever. But it's, by boiling it down to its basics, it's a film about corruption, about America in the 1970s. But it's not about that. It's about cynicism. And I'm a great optimist. What I love about it is that it is a film which is without hope, but it's so technically brilliant. I wouldn't necessarily say it's my favorite film, but it's the most technically brilliant, and the most brilliant mystery. A very complex mystery which really inspired me in the making of this film actually, Enola 2, because you also have corruption.
Directed by: William Friedkin | Written by: Ernest Tidyman
Life caught as it happens. Using a documentary style to create a thriller. Taking the thriller, the genre thriller, and making it. There's something so freewheeling about the way Friedkin shot that. And the chase sequence under the elevated railway is remarkable. I love Gene Hackman's performance in it. And there's something very particular about bringing the French influence and Friedkin's Francophilia into an American story that makes it stand out and feel as though he sent a camera to that period and captured it.
Directed by: Jacques Audiard | Written by: Jacques Audiard, Tonino Benacquista, and James Toback
Well, that is a film about music, and violence, and fatherlessness. It's a kind of tragic tale set in Paris in the early noughties. And it has Audiard’s standard, the power of his social realistic approach with the handheld camera. The music is remarkable, I think it's Desplat. The performance by Romain Duris is what I think I've always found to be a fascinating character. His face, I can watch for just hours. He seems bitter, but, if you look deep into his eyes, he's hiding a deep pain in humanity. It's about a man who was once a young concert pianist, who's ended up being a thug for a gangster. And it's him deciding about whether he goes to his musical life, a musical career, or carries on in crime.
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan | Written by: Lawrence Kasdan and Frank Galati
That is just the most beautiful education plot written by Lawrence Kasdan, adapted by, [from] the Anne Rice book. And it's just joyful. And, in some ways, quite daft. Geena Davis plays this dog trainer who rescues William Hurt from a period of terrible grief, a man who's lost his son through a car accident and his life has fallen apart. And it's a gradual resurrection of the human spirit. All the films I'm really interested in emotionally, aside from The French Connection and Chinatown, is the power of admitting to your own weaknesses.
Directed by: Sydney Pollack | Written by: Larry Gelbart and Murray Schisgal
Tootsie is a classic comedy with something to say. As he says, as Dustin Hoffman says at the end, 'I was a better man as a woman than I was as a man.' And you want to stick that on your refrigerator door. It's just a joyful message. It's very funny. It's also directed by Sydney Pollack, who plays the agent with an amazing cameo in it. But that film has such joy and verve. And it's a modern Billy Wilder movie. Lovely.