Before Matthew MacFadyen wowed the ladies as Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice, he was distinctly hard-bitten in New Zealand-set thriller In My Father's Den. Although short of a masterpiece, this Kiwi-UK co-production - about a man suspected of harming the daughter he didn't know he had - was acknowledged by critics as "an involving, haunting picture". It only found a niche audience at cinemas, but MacFadyen's growing reputation could well boost profits on DVD.
Building The Den
"I had a dream about this place where the tide had gone out and never returned," reveals writer/director Brad McGann in a poetic attempt to explain the genesis of the project. Of course novelist Maurice Gee came up with the story before McGann experienced this epiphany but his absence from a batch of cast and crew interviews suggests that he perhaps wasn't best pleased with the final film.
Indeed, in his commentary, McGann goes on to say that, "This wasn't a literal adaptation, but something I played with a great deal during the writing process." He sums up, adding, "The final result became a marriage between myself and his [Gee's] work." If that suggests a degree of egotism, McGann is also very open about the ideas he had which didn't work and thereby adds an extra layer of intrigue to the story. For instance, he envisioned Miranda Otto's character as an agoraphobic but later dispensed with the notion. Even so, the bars on her door remain.
Through The Keyhole
McGann's attention to character details is one of the reasons Otto took on the project as she explains in her interview. Sadly though, the actors, producers and director of photography Stuart Dryburgh get precious little talk time compared with McGann. In particular, Dryburgh hints at the challenges of flitting between vast landscapes and intimate moments, and bouncing between seasons, without getting the chance to explain how he solved these problems.
A behind-the-scenes featurette is similarly superficial. It's basically a comparison of b-roll footage with scenes from the final film, ie the opening sequence where teenager Emily Barclay had to lie inches from a rumbling train. In the end, it's only McGann's contributions that afford any real insight into the production, but that's just enough to provide a firm foundation for this DVD edition of In My Father's Den.