For Edward Berger, getting the chance to direct “Patrick Melrose” was “the biggest luck of my life.” Based on a series of novels by Edward St. Aubyn, the show follows the life journey of the title character (Benedict Cumberbatch), who was abused as a child, struggles with addiction and heartbreak, and seeks redemption. Berger directed all five episodes of the Showtime limited series, and he considers Melrose “one of the most interesting characters” ever written. Watch our exclusive video interview with Berger above.
Berger discovered the first “Melrose’ novel while in New York in 1993 by sheer luck. “I think it was an illegal import,” he recalls, “because it hadn’t found a publisher [in the US] yet.” Although he loved the book, he thought it would be difficult to adapt because “not much happens. In terms of a traditional plot, there’s very little in it. It’s about one man, his psychological dismay, and him falling apart … So it’s very hard to visualize.” Yet the scripts by David Nicholls “made each book feel like a 60-minute film,” while also managing to be “funny, even though it’s so dark.”
Berger wanted each episode to be visually unique because the scripts “all feel different.” The first episode, which follows Patrick on a drug trip, “feels very subjective,” so “I wanted to shoot it that way, be always behind him, in the face, basically show everything through Patrick Melrose.” The second episode, meanwhile, examines Patrick’s childhood with his abusive parents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Hugo Weaving). That script “felt very objective. We step back in time and perspective,” so Berger “stepped back with the camera” in order to “observe everything.”
This year Berger also helmed three episodes of AMC’s “The Terror,” produced by Ridley Scott. Previously his film “Jack” (2014) earned him German Film Award nominations for Best Director and Best Screenplay. He has additionally directed episodes of such TV shows as “Deutschland 83,” “Tatort,” and “KDD – Kriminaldauerdienst.”
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