Interview With Matthew J. Saville – Juniper (2023)

A pleasure to hear from you, director Saville. Thank you for allowing us to get a viewing. So, my first question is, how did the location play a role in the makings of this feature? And, if I may, how did this reflect your personal upbringing?

Ha, yes, finding that location was essential. We found this very odd house and were lucky to get permission to transform it into a family home. The sense of isolation was vital! The idea of a family being in the countryside but not belonging to that way of life. Robert is stranded there; Sam has more connection to the land through his mother. Then Ruth turns up!

Growing up in the countryside was a huge part of my life. I went to boarding school and snuck out at night. The motorbike is a copy of my grandfather’s farm bike; the party scene is classic kiwi culture. Young adults from far and wide descend upon someone’s house and drink themselves into oblivion. Though this story is fiction, it has glimpses of my friends and family. And yes, my Grandmother came to live with us for the last part of her life and enjoyed a gin.

Very nice. It appears our childhoods bring lots of memories for us to explore, and moments for us to contemplate in retrospect. Do you feel more connected to Ruth, Sam, or both characters in this feature? I was connected more to Sam’s situation and development.

I wish I were more like Ruth but without the alcoholism. She does not suffer fools! Still, she pays the price for her temperament, but what a life she’s lived.

Indeed. So in the midst of the feature, I found the inclusion of the white horse to be a neat bit of symbolism, as these creatures represent innocence and purity. And I vastly enjoyed that one moment when Sam is contemplating a horrific action, and the horse interrupts his intentions like an angel reaches out to prevent him from stepping into the darkness. Do you mind elaborating on this moment further?

For me, Grace is his mother (she saves him), but it also comes from a true story I read about a man on the brink of taking his own life, living alone on a farm and going through a divorce. His horse saved his life. It sensed his pain and nuzzled his chest when he was in his darkest moment. He was comforted and got through it. Growing up on a farm, I had a profound affection for animals. Horses are herd animals, so they are incredibly sensitive to the feeling of their owners.

Horses are quite a beauty; even all animals bring something some pure to us in the darkest of times. Is there an intention for audiences to question not only how to understand life but how to face the aspect of death?

I hope it brings up a personal response to that relationship. We all have to deal with grief. I hope people walk away moved and uplifted, and thoughtful. That they see themselves and their family in the film, and there is a sense of joy and beauty in that.

I liked the idea that from dysfunction can come connection. Ruth is forgiven without changing, but she accepts her mortality. She gets her last passionate love affair. That was important to me.

Have any particular features/filmmakers inspired the layout and makings of this one?

Harold and Maude is a big influence, though they are tonally very different films. I love Hal Ashby. Essentially, I see Juniper as a platonic love story.

Very nice! Lastly, this question is out of sheer curiosity: does the title of the movie have any relevance or resemblance to the Bible or Greek mythology? I was simply inquisitive because researching the word “juniper” has multiple meanings.

The Greeks influence everything! My son’s name is Hector taken from Homer’s Iliad. However, the name is more related to the berries that flavour gin, and Ruth loves gin, but the idea that it resonates on other levels is appealing.

Yeah, that’s a valid point. I’m not one to utilize gin, but I can see that resemblance.

I guess I do have one more thing as a bonus question: what was it like to work with Charlotte Rampling? She’ll be gearing up to return in Dune: Part Two that comes out later this year.

She’s a delight! I was nervous! She is very human; she loves adventure! Yes, some people have joked about Ruth asking Sam to put his hand in the box – in their first meeting! I loved Dune Part I; I loved the books, too; I can’t wait to see the next installment.

I enjoyed Dune Part One much, too, particularly for its visuals! We’ll see her in action later this year. But anyway, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Mr. Saville. Best of luck with your future projects!

Thanks so much! I am glad you enjoyed the film.

Juniper (2023) releases in limited theaters on February 24th, 2023; review from our site here.

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