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Andy Wilson, director:
In Gormenghast there's relatively little motivation in the characters because it's not a naturalistic drama of emotional motivation. They are just are who they are. Flay is Flay. He is the faithful servant, and that's what Christopher Lee had to play. You absolutely can't describe his motivation in terms of a normal person. Why does he hate Swelter? Because he does, because in life some people simply hate other people, and they can't understand why, they just do.
Estelle Daniel, producer:
If he is pushed to categorise it, the director, Andy Wilson, defines Gormenghast as 'a speculation about the nature of evil...'
The violence in Gormenghast is real; the knives are sharp; there is horror. Anthony Burgess saw this very much as a reflection of the time when it was written: 'after a long and horrifying war ... the cat's claws ripping a 'crimson wedge' from Steerpike's cheek ... the fight between Flay and Swelter -- these are not gratuitous Gothicisms so much as reflections out of an era of horrors.'
But Mervyn Peake does not dwell on the horror; the intensity of his gaze is on the humans at either end of the knife, as villain or victim. And his biggest response to the destruction is in the humour. After the precise and surgical savagery of the fight to the death between Flay and Swelter, the fat cook falls to his death from a window, and his body exudes a giant fart as he collapses into a puddle. Gormenghast is drenched, not in blood, but in humour.
For more about Swelter and Flay, visit:
Set Design: The Kitchen
Set Design: The Stone Corridors
The Producer's Diary/March 29
Some text excerpts courtesy of HarperCollins Entertainment, The Art of Gormenghast by Estelle Daniel (2000).
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