Richard Ayoade’s directorial debut, Submarine, is a heartfelt and curiously avant-garde exploration of British cinema.

The director, who is possibly best known for his role as ‘Moss’ in Channel 4’s The IT Crowd, has a degree of experience in directing, elements of which have clearly filtered through to his cinematic production debut.

In 2007 he filmed an Arctic Monkeys gig in Manchester from the point of view of the audience, eliminating the crowd from view. This had the effect of the viewer having the audience behind them, and enhanced the stage presence of the band.

Submarine is storytelling at its most precise, indeed the attention to detail of the film is so intense it becomes an increasingly noticeable feature.

Main character Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is the audience’s eyes and voice as we follow his quest of growing up, set against the backdrop of his parents’ marital difficulties, and the deeply mature relationship he has with Jordana, played by Yasmin Paige.

Ayoade’s debut merges new-wave and contemporary cinema styles, and leaves an audience curious and rather alarmed at the fate of emotionally omnipotent Oliver Tate.

At the Manchester premiere of the film, Movie Ramblings spoke to the director about Submarine, being likened to Wes Anderson and directing the Bon Jovi story.

The book is time-specific, with Jordana writing emails, etc. Why was this omitted for the film?

I felt that looking at dial-up screens would add nothing to the film, and it wasn’t relevant. I like films which are not set in a specific time. It was a pre-emptive strike on it looking dated to make it look dated already.

How easy was the film to cast?

I wanted Paddy (Considine) to play Graham. There was no other option. If he hadn’t done it, well, nobody would.

The quality of the sound editing was notable. Was this something that was on board early on?

We always made sure that Hackenbacker and Nigel Heath (sound mixer) had read the script and knew what we were doing. New-Wave films used noisy cameras and we tried to make that effect. It gets you into Oliver’s head. In some respects it reflects Fellini’s work.

What films influenced you on this process?

Taxi Driver and Badlands, but only so far as in the juxtaposed voiceover.

You have been described as the British Wes Anderson- Would you accept that title?

Would I accept it? That makes it sound like an MBE or something! Oliver in Submarine is far more hidden than Max Fischer in Rushmore. At least to me it is kind of different.

How different is the finished article to your original vision?

Lots of things change. The idea of having a very internal voiceover was always an idea. I wanted it filmed as though through his eyes. Overall, it doesn’t feel that different. You can’t imagine the finished article before you hear Alex (Turner)’s finished music, or the score or the editing.

How did you find the transition to full on director?

I’ve directed Arctic Monkeys music videos, so the transition from actor to director in that sense was already something I had done. With a music video you have a song which precedes it, you don’t have to let an audience read it as it is already there for them to hear. It is similar with adapting a book. It is something that already exists and you adapt it. You can disappoint more people with a film!

Ben Stiller is noticeable in the credits. How did that come about?

He was an executive producer on the film. He read a script and liked it, and had admired Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. He was doing Greenberg at the time and saw some similarities in our work.

Do you enjoy being in complete control, as you were writing and directing this film by yourself?

This is the first time I’ve written on my own- generally I have co-written. I am working on an adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Double with Avi Korine. I’ll have a go at a draft for that but I’ll want Avi to be there throughout.

With the funding cuts threatening the future of British Cinema, how do you see cinema faring?

I’m always worried. Even about getting on the train. You never believe anything you write will get funded. You always assume it won’t get funded.

What advice do you give to upcoming directors?

It’s easy to get frightened making something, with worries such as money and time. Always do what you want to do, and then what you need to.

In considering films and roles, do you lean towards socially awkward people?

I’m not mad on confident people, so, possibly, yes. I can’t imagine making the Bon Jovi story!

How do you think British films fare when exported to the USA?

Who knows? You’re so involved with sorting the problems applying to you-whether the film works- that you never imagine that anyone will see it! It’s kind of incredible in a way. This is why I’m not in the marketing department. I have no idea of what people would like. I would make the film and leave it outside in a box. But who would have imagined Monty Python being so popular in America? You can’t imagine they sat down and thought about it.


Submarine is released in cinemas nationwide on Friday March 18.

Written by Alex Johnston


About The Author

Avatar photo

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written three books - on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014), the history of the character Norman Bates (2015) and the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker (2017). He is currently working with director Richard Loncraine to explore all avenues in a bid to orchestrate the re-release of 1978 Mia Farrow chiller Full Circle