Richard Brake And Raffiella Chapman On Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi Vesper

As far as post-apocalyptic film scenarios go, Vesper might have the most scarily believable one to grace our screens in quite some time.

Set after the collapse of the Earth’s eco-system, the film follows thirteen-year-old Vesper (Raffiella Chapman) who is doing her best to survive alongside her paralysed father Darius (Richard Brake) on a planet left in ruins, stuck in the rural wilderness, isolated from the catastrophes that have hit cities worldwide.

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Her seedy uncle (Eddie Marsan) sees Vesper’s potential and wants her to join his group of child slaves, who are forced to try and harvest any crops. However, the fiercely independent teenager is resistant to this, using her own bio-hacking abilities for her survival.

Co-directors Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper both immediately knew that Chapman was the only fit for the role after seeing her audition tape, sensing that the actress shared several characteristics with their titular heroine.

Chapman felt the same way, as the character resonated with her upon first reading the screenplay. She explained to us:

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“I just loved her passion and determination – she’s barely a teenager, she’s so small, but she still refuses to accept the cards she’s been dealt in life. You feel like she has a future even if the world she’s in doesn’t.”

The filmmakers have stressed that they see the film as a “dark fairytale for our times”, using the barely veiled allegory of a dystopian future to examine a present ravaged by an ever-changing climate we are increasingly powerless to stop. Naturally, this is a theme that resonated with the teenage Chapman.

“Like a lot of people in my generation, I’m very passionate about climate change”, she explained. “I think this world is a gift and we need to take care of it. But more so than that, we need to tackle inequality when it comes to the climate crisis – giant corporations are responsible for most of the world’s carbon emissions, for example.

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“I think that’s something reflected in Vesper, where the rich have run out of food in their attempts to survive, but ultimately, I think there is a message of hope for the future in there, and that’s something we really need at the moment”.

Chapman was only 13 when she filmed Vesper in the Lithuanian wilderness, and the pressure of leading a film for the first time initially got to her. But one thing that wasn’t a challenge was working with her older co-stars, in particular Richard Brake, whose character suffers from locked-in syndrome and can only communicate via a drone – a difficult father/daughter relationship to make believable due to the restraints placed on Brake, but a challenge both rose to.

As Brake explained to Zavvi, “I actually was thrilled by the concept of trying to create a character without any dialogue or even physical movement. It all comes down to my eyes, which I have to use to try and express everything I need to for the film.

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“I hadn’t met Kristina or Bruno prior to filming, so there was the worry that they’d be directors more interested in the visuals and not on the expressive nature of the performance – but with every take, we would really try and discuss what was going on behind those eyes, and the best ways to express so much through so little.

“Me and Eddie (Marsan) are great friends, and it’s always great to work with him on a film – but throughout filming this, he’d always be teasing me that I had the easiest job. I got to lie down for the entirety of shooting!”

Brake and Marsan first met at drama school many years ago and have remained close ever since, with the pair also Godfathers to each other’s children. However, despite the fact they both live in London, Brake points out they never actually get a chance to meet up due to their hectic shooting schedules, meaning every big catch up takes place on a film set.

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“Neither me or Eddie are good looking, leading man types – we know we’re the weird kind of character actor. I don’t remember ever starring alongside him in a school production, but I remember all the grinding away trying to make it ever since; watching each other in crappy Edinburgh Fringe plays with seven people in the audience on a good day, knowing that every single performance is an acting lesson more than anything. Although even now, I’m still learning!”

Another reason the screenplay for Vesper resonated so much with Brake was because it was an exploration of the relationship between parent and child. As a father of three, the actor was affected by the father/daughter relationship at the film’s centre.

“To me, the role of a parent is to help their child function in the world, it’s a huge part of my life. So, to explore such a bleak world, where the parent can’t necessarily help their child survive, was incredibly fascinating, if incredibly bleak.

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“Working with Rafi to build that relationship was a joy, she’s absolutely committed to her performance. I met her a few days before filming, as we went out to meet somebody who had a similar condition to my character, although not quite as severe. We bonded right away, and it was actually via our shared love of Taylor Swift – that’s my dark secret, I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan!”

After making Vesper, Brake jokes that the only way he’d be able to survive in a similarly apocalyptic world is if he had Chapman there to help him. “I need someone smarter than me to guide me through this – I still need help cleaning my room, of course I need help to survive the end of the world!”

Vesper is released in UK cinemas on 21st October.

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Alistair Ryder

Alistair Ryder


Alistair is a culture journalist and lover of bad puns from Leeds. Subject yourself to his bad tweets by following him on Twitter @YesItsAlistair.