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A journey through France with The Man in the Hat

An Oscar winning composer and co-director of a new film has spoken about how it celebrates human relationships.

Stephen Warbeck, who has previously scored Billy Elliot and Shakespeare in Love, has teamed up with John-Paul Davidson for The Man in the Hat.

The comedy-drama film is released in selected UK cinemas from today, and will be shown at the new cinema at Lynn’s Corn Exchange.

Stephen Warbeck, co-director of The Man in the Hat. Picture: ROSS FERGUSON
Stephen Warbeck, co-director of The Man in the Hat. Picture: ROSS FERGUSON

Set in the picturesque landscapes of France, the near-silent movie experience follows the journey of The Man in the Hat played by Ciarán Hinds as he encounters various mysterious strangers in a series of eccentric encounters.

Mr Warbeck said The Man in the Hat represents an everyday man character who reflects that we all experience lives full of peculiarities and unexplained encounters. But as the film progresses, this sense of unfamiliarity evaporates and becomes a ray of positive light.

"He is a very solitary character," Mr Warbeck explains. "During the film we know something tragic or sad is happening in his life but little by little with contact he is warming up and rediscovers warmth in relationships with other humans.

"In a way, The Man in the Hat is like a little island who reaches out and starts to contact other people."

As well as the sense of mystique at the start of the journey, there are plenty of light-hearted moments as the protagonist reaches out to others.

Mr Warbeck said: “What you see on the screen makes it an emotional journey, a very hopeful one which celebrates what is good about people.

“Little contacts with strangers can change us and hopefully makes the world a better place. It’s a film which celebrates those little interactions and human relationships.”

Considering Mr Warbeck is an Oscar winning composer who began studying piano and composing at the age of four, music also plays an influential role in the film.

The five-times BAFTA composer said: "The music liberates and expresses the film. Some of the expressions of the characters are reflected in the music and there is a really big range of music."

This includes Schubert Lieder sung by the incomparable Mark Padmore, Canteloube aria from the Cevennes, and Try a Lttle Tenderness, as well as Mr Warbeck's work. He appears in one scene as an extra as The Man in the Hat takes a journey on a boat.

On his contribution to the Kaleidoscope Entertainment production, the composer and co-director said: "I have been writing work for films for quite a long time and I am really pleased with these pieces of work. The music is serving the narrative of them. I am immersed in films and I like getting into the detail of it."

As opposed to making music to compliment set scripts, as was the case with Billy Elliot, Mr Warbeck enjoyed the freedom which came with letting the music play an influential role on the narrative in The Man in the Hat.

Mr Warbeck said: "To collate music in a film is a bit like being in a band. A single person brings a new element to it. A lot of different people's imagination went into it and the richness of the films comes from those imaginations."

Also in the cast are The Damp Man played by Stephen Dillane of Game of Thrones and Darkest Hour, The Chef played by Muna Otaru of TV’s Broken and The Keeping Room, alongside The Biker played by French actress Maïwenn of Polisse and Pardonnez-moi.

Starting just outside Marseille, the film moves on through the magnificent southern France landscape.

As well as being shown at Lynn's Corn Exchange, the film will be available on digital platforms from October 19.

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