Just like the mysteries of the forest don't readily reveal themselves to the human eye, the same rule of thumb can be also be applied to Tom Geen's slow-burning grief meditative that is Couple in a Hole. Set in the woodlands of the French Pyrene's, the story adapts its title both metaphorically and literally as a transplanted Scottish couple renounce civilization in an attempt to deal with heart crushing loss.

Alongside on-screen husband Paul Higgins (John); former Game of Throne's star Kate Dickie assumes the role of Karen, an emaciated "housewife" whose seclusion has resulted in stultifying agoraphobia. Kate, who dropped a substantial amount of weight for the role, spoke to the 405 about extreme acting, Portishead and what it really means to step "off the grid."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I think the plot is so unusual, what was it that particularly attracted you to it?

I was really fascinated by the idea of a normal couple being thrust into this extreme situation. It's a strange riff on the traditional love story. I was the same as you when I first read the script, I hadn't really seen anything like it before and I was interested in exploring Karen and finding out how she had become the way she was.

Prior to this, what experience did you have of acting in these harsh outdoor, woodland areas? It's a pretty extreme role

Yeah, it was an extreme role to take on. I grew up in the Scottish countryside so I ran about wild climbing trees and digging in the dirt as a girl, but certainly not as an adult! Me and Paul had to lose and maintain a very low weight so that it looked like we were living on berries and the odd squirrel. It was physically tough, but that helps to get into character and makes it feel more truthful and real. Tom Geens was a great director to work with and Paul was amazing. I felt lucky to be given a role like that and act pretty much exclusively with him - I only had a little bit to do with the other characters nearer the end. It was a wonderful part to get.

Physically, how much did this role demand of you? In the best possible way, I thought you looked like you had actually been living in a forest!

I'm glad you thought so! It was demanding to get to that point. We started on our weight loss with the nutritionist in February and that was supposed to last about 5 weeks, but Paul went out to start the shoot before me and 4 days in - the day before I was supposed to go - he broke his ankle. We then had to suspend the shoot for a couple of months until he recovered. In the meantime, I was out in Canada working on The Witch where I played a character that was also malnourished, so I was lucky in a weird way. We ended up maintaining the weight loss thing for 5 months until we could get back on set.

We were in good hands as well. We weren't losing weight on our own accord; we had a proper nutrition plan and nutritionist who we could call at any time. It was a really healthy, clean diet - it just wasn't enough! It also involved a lot of exercise to keep fit as we had to be physically strong for the role.

When researching the role did you learn how to properly forage and skin animals?

I didn't, but I watched A LOT of survival videos before I went because I wasn't sure what would be asked of me and how much I'd need to know. I'm vegetarian, but that wasn't the only problem when it came to the skinning of the rabbit. You can't just be like "Oh, I'll give it a go", you have to actually look accomplished. On a small shoot on such a low budget, I couldn't afford to go on a training course. For that scene, one of the crew shaved his arms and got into my dress! It was more Paul that done the foraging and outdoor work, whereas my role was the homemaker. The roles were traditional, but that was forced on them. I don't know if that was the case in the real world before.

Atavism is at the heart of this film not just in its location and setting, but how the characters interact because of either their emotional relationship or the language barrier. The most basic instincts of the human condition are always being played out at the forefront. Exploring grief and loss is a well-trod path in cinema, but there's something about it being framed in this context which makes it all the more poignant..

Yeah, you're spot on. What Tom does with the script and the location, we have gone back animal instinct. Karen especially has gone back to that animalistic, primal feeling where she won't leave the location. She has that base instinct. As cliché as it is to say, the location becomes another character as well. The landscape initially looks quite nice with the bunny at the beginning etc., but as the weather and seasons change, things get harder and you think "oh my God". It's not until you see the little boys from the village appear next to them you realise how destitute they really are. The landscape becomes even more threatening as the film goes on and there are so many layers. I think that sort of animalistic way of grieving is definitely at the core of it. There's love too, with John feeling that need to re-join society and have connections with people, whereas Karen is still traumatised and ill, wanting the opposite.

I think that links to our current society too. In the age of hyperconnection, grief has come to take on a whole different form - it's like our online ubiquity has made it this shared process, but the film and its setting reinforces the very personal, individual nature of it

There's a really great scene in the opening sequence where a plane fly's by overhead. It contrasts what you're saying perfectly

The plane, yes! It really does. What I also find interesting is that up until then you don't have a sense of what era we're in or what time. He's in nice, if not slightly odd, clothes, but then the plane fly's by and lets you know that it's modern day times. You're then thinking "why the fuck is he in a forrst?!" The yearning in his eyes as he sees life go on above him makes me sad. It's a brilliant moment and one of my favourites as well.

We've talked about the physical part, but how much did it demand of you emotionally? I'm thinking of Karen's agoraphobia in particular

Yeah, it was a mentally exhausting movie because you have to be in a dark place to try and make it truthful. I only had a couple of days to prepare before starting as I'd just got back from The Witch, but again, it worked out well because I was still in such an intense mental place. I found the story and script so beautiful and it's worth putting yourself through things like that for this kind of thing.

Is that what's driving you right now then, these extreme roles where you're really pushing yourself to the edge?

I like being challenged and I wanted to become an actor to play different people. That way it's not about you, it's about the character and the script. I'm interested in people in situations that aren't necessarily every day and how they react when pushed into it. I've maybe not realised I'm making those decisions consciously, but it's definitely the stuff that attracts me.

I thought the musical dimension to this film was huge. Did you and Geoff Barrow have any contact during the making of it or was this all added in post-production?

The whole soundtrack and score is amazing. It'll be released separately so you'll be able to buy it. There's actually a funny story behind it. I'm a huge Portishead fan but hadn't really listened to them recently. I always make up playlists and theme songs which help me get in the characters mood, and so for Karen I was playing 'Roads' by Portishead. I'd been listening to this track on a loop for weeks before going to do some of the post production with Tom in Belgium. When I got there I asked him what he was thinking about for music, to: which he replied "oh we have this fantastic band

So, what's your next role then? Something as equally demanding I bet?

I recently finished working on a German TV drama, Landgericht, which is based on a bestselling novel which came out in Germany 4 or 5 years ago. I then did a short with Mikey Murray and I'm also in a TV drama called "One of Us", which is a thriller set in Scotland directed by Will McGregor.