Director John N. Smith and writer Des Walsh have shared a long and fruitful artistic relationship on such projects as the award-winning TV series The Boys Of St. Vincent and Random Passage.

Their latest project is the film Love And Savagery — opening this Friday — that sees the pair adapt a collection of poems written by Walsh. Smith says the film has been years in the making.

“We spent many intensive months working on the Boys of St. Vincent and we were sitting in Des’ kitchen one day talking about future projects,” Smith said. “We had been talking about matters of the heart and I said, ‘Des, how about Love And Savagery: The Movie. The themes in that book of poetry lend to a love story, so write me that story.’”

Smith and Walsh spent years determining how the lyrical and occasionally painful poems could be translated into a narrative before settling on the story of a young geologist from Newfoundland who moves to a small town in Ireland to study a rare limestone formation and falls in love with a local girl planning on joining the convent.

Their burgeoning relationship upsets the balance of the close-knit community, leading to the savagery part of the tale.

“It took a lot of back and forth, but essentially we started with a template of a trip to Ireland that Des had made with a friend of his,” Smith said. “The characters are so well-suited to each other, that one wanted them to get together. But, that couldn’t happen. We had to have the emotional devastation. For Des, Love and Savagery isn’t just about physical savagery, but the savagery of the human heart.”

Of course, the love story was not the only reason John N. Smith had for making the film. It also gave him another opportunity to explore Newfoundland and Ireland, two places that have been a major influence on the director’s life and work.

“I’ve become a kind of explorer of the soul of Newfoundland from afar,” said Walsh. “There must be something Celtic in my soul that drives me to there and Ireland. Particularly through someone like Des Walsh who has an interesting and complex relationship with his mother country, one that reminds me a bit of the relationship that a lot of Quebecers have to France.

“A lot of Irish people come to Newfoundland and say that it feels like a corner of Ireland.”
For both Smith and Walsh, capturing the essence of these two locations was as important as anything they were trying to say with the plot or themes of the film. In this way, Love And Savagery plays as an almost culminative work for the long-time collaborators. But it won’t be the last time they will work together. “Des and I have started kicking a new idea around,” revealed Smith. “It’s too early to say anything more, but we are working on something.”

– Love And Savagery opens in theatres this Friday

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