Open Air Cinema at Mount Edgcumbe

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Reviewed by Nigel Watson, Photos by Dom Moore

Terrestrial, date, time, location: 20 August 2016, 8pm, Plympton. I’ve got tickets for the outdoor screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at Mount Edgcumbe, but it’s continuing to rain outside. Every time I open the door even our cat refuses to leave the comfort of the living room sofa. She looks at me with an ‘are you kidding look’ in her eyes. Then I remembered that the website says it will only be cancelled if there are extreme weather conditions, and by Plymouth standards the rain (and wind) was rather piffling. I could tell that despite the cat and the weather, The Force was calling me.

It was fun going on the Cremyll ferry, travelling with a number of passengers over the dark waters to what could be an even damper evening of entertainment. Walking through the gloomy countryside it was good to finally arrive at our destination to find so many people already camped out in front of the screen. There were several Storm Troopers prowling around to keep the audience in order, though it was more disconcerting to see a person with a fake (I hope!) human head on a stick in front of us when we queued to collect our tickets at the pop-up box office.

Then to the film, an escapist ballet of zooming spaceships, aliens, flashing light sabres, stars streaking as we travel faster than the speed-of-light, droids, the thunderous roar of light and energy sucked from stars to fuel the destructive power of the Starkiller Base and the powerful pulse of John Williams’ score.

That at first sight, and to the casual viewer, is the essence of Star Wars yet its indelible impact on popular culture is as strong and enigmatic as The Force that infiltrates our Universe. Yet, it is more than that as it plays on the heritage of popular, arthouse and experimental filmmaking. A good example of this is how in the original Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) director George Lucas used ideas and motifs from at least 45 war movies, including most obviously The Dam Busters and 633 Squadron, to put together the dogfight sequence at the end of the film. Star Wars also draws on the Western genre that at their simplest always had goodies and baddies, as well as from documentary, science fiction and action movies.

From this collage of movies Lucas built up a filmic empire, which creates an intense technological mythology largely based on the works of scholar Joseph Campbell, who in such books as The Hero with a Thousand Faces defined the concept of the Hero Cycle. In the case of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker is the hero who has to find his destiny by meeting challenges, finding allies and discovering the nature of his existence. Indeed, Lucas is credited as being the first mass media mythologist.

In Awakens we get not one but two new heroes, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), in keeping with our times it is significant that they are a woman and black man. Their equality is quickly pointed out when he tries to help her out, she says don’t hold my hand, and a few minutes later she tells him to hold her hand when he falls over. They are even more linked when, after stealing the Millennium Falcon spacecraft, they discover they are in complete harmony with this vessel. In future films we should learn more about their origins and the tasks ahead of them.

The New Republic represents democracy and freedom, whereas the First Order represents dictatorship and repression. In this mix of forces there are the intricate family ties between the main characters and the next generation, in this sense Star Wars has always gone beyond merely spaceships shooting each other down, and takes it to the human dimension of the meaning of warfare, politics and society. The films take us on cycles of power and the complexities of understanding or acknowledging The Force that binds us together in this endless struggle.

As the film progressed the weather improved and the powers of lightness took us away from the dark side, making the journey home an easy (star) trek.

 

Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A potted introduction to Star Wars, ahead of our Open Air Cinema screening at Mount Edgcumbe on August 20th, by Nigel Watson. 

Star Wars blasted onto our cinema screens in 1977 and took us to a galaxy created by the imagination of George Lucas. To everyone’s surprise it was worldwide sensation, allowing Lucas to produce two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). A trilogy of prequel films set 30 years before Star Wars was released between 1999 and 2005, causing the original film to be subtitled, Episode IV: A New Hope. Over this period there have been numerous video games, novels and animated TV series based on the Star Wars universe, and a 3D animated feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) set in the period between the live action feature film Episodes II (Attack of the Clones) and III (Revenge of the Sith). Continue reading

Film Review: The Daughter

the daughter 2

The Daughter is a remake of the Henrik Ibsen play Wild Duck. First performed in 1884, Ibsen’s play tells the story of a secret that threatens to blow apart the lives of two families.

Director and screenwriter Simon Stone (here making his directorial debut, but a fixture of the Sydney theatre scene) transports the action from Norway to a fictional logging town in Australia.

The town’s economy is built on the foundation of a logging mill, owned by Henry (played by Geoffrey Rush). The mill is in decline, and Henry has no choice but to close it down, meaning redundancy for its workers.

We met one of its workers, Oliver (played by Ewen Leslie) who is married to schoolteacher Charlotte (Miranda Otto). They have one daughter, Hedvig (played by Odessa Young). With them, lives Walter, Oliver’s father. A small town weaves close relationships, and we learn that Walter has been released from prison after serving time for white collar fraud, having worked with Henry at the logging mill.

Henry is due to get married for the second time to Anna (Anna Torv),his former housekeeper. Henry invites his son, Christian, from his first marriage to come home for the wedding. Christian (played by Paul Schneider) is a functioning alcoholic, his own marriage already in pieces. He returns for his father’s wedding, and it is revealed that his alcoholism stems from his mother’s suicide. Christian meets up with Oliver (they were childhood friends). The reunion starts off well, but Christian soon realises that Charlotte has not told Oliver a crucial detail about her past. The secret, when it is finally revealed, sets off a catastrophic string of events, and Oliver’s world implodes.

What is immediately clear about The Daughter is that this is not quite word-for-word homage to Ibsen, or kitchen-sink domestic drama. It pitches between the two, with Stone making some very bold and unconventional choices.

The Daughter is an Australian film through and through, but it removes the familiar iconography we think of as representing Australia – the sun, the beach, a virtually genetic predisposition for optimism. Stone uses the landscape (large parts of the film were shot in New South Wales) to break out from the Ibsen interior, and shoot the action against a green, lush backdrop. From the very start, it gives The Daughter a sense of otherness.

Stone’s decision to go outside is surprising, but what the open spaces allow is for the claustrophobia in Ibsen’s work to become internalised. Secrets build unspoken, threatening to combust at any minute. Family ties and tensions become tangled as the film unfolds. Certainties slip and founder, as the truth (despite Christian’s protestations) really is something to be afraid of.

The film builds to its conclusion delicately, slowly, with every note is played in a minor key – from the cast to the lighting. It is a film that thrives on the unconventional, and it takes a brave man to depart from the script, but Stone’s confidence, honed from years working in theatre, allows him to digress from Ibsen’s use of symbolism and instead concentrate on the close-knit drama between the two families.

The simplicity, with which their story is told, is testament to Stone’s abilities as a screenwriter. The actors are given room to really dig deep, and the film excels because of it. Geoffrey Rush seems tailor-made for Ibsen, portraying a complex inner life with ease, and Paul Schneider (a regular on TV sitcom Parks and Recreation) fleshes out Christian’s despair and alcoholism with real skill. Schneider treads the line between trauma and self-pity remarkably well, leaving us no choice but to interpret Christian’s motives with ambiguity at best.

While this is undoubtedly an ensemble film, it would be remiss of me not to mention the excellent Odessa Young who plays Hedvig, the eponymous daughter. Ibsen has a reputation for crafting memorable female characters, and Young paints Hedvig in bright, exuberant primary colours. It’s an extraordinary performance right up to the closing credits – expect to hear much more from her in the near future.

Anyone who’s familiar with A Doll’s House or Ghosts will know that Ibsen’s go-to move is to cast silence and complicity as the villain of the piece. Whether it comes from self-interest or self-preservation, Ibsen’s views on morality are difficult to unpick – he recognised that life isn’t drawn in a straight line, and wrote accordingly.

The film ends as it begins; with few definitive markers. Stone makes another bold decision in not adhering to the original ending of Wild Duck (not to give too much away), but what we’re left with is more ambiguity. What is the future for these characters? Can their fractured relationships be healed, or is it simply too late?

A good film should always leave you with a sense of satisfaction; but a great film always leaves you with more questions than answers, and The Daughter does exactly this. It’s a work with the courage of its convictions, and a great example of how filmmakers shouldn’t feel tied to source material. The Daughter takes a lot of chances, but the care with which the drama is handled, leaves us in no doubt that taking a risk can yield something as beautiful as it is unexpected.

Helen Tope

Twitter: @Scholar1977

FILM REVIEW: Jaws and Life of Pi at Tinside Lido

Jaws 1

Last weekend saw the first of three Open Air Cinema events in Plymouth this summer in the Tinside Lido. The choice of films, Life of Pi and Jaws are two nautical films that suited the sea side setting.

For me and many others who were lucky enough to get tickets, we were treated to a unique experience of watching two brilliant films right next to the sea. During Life of Pi the weather wasn’t that great. The sea mist had come in and there was fine drizzle that didn’t seem to want to let up for the first hour of the film. However, instead of ruining the film it merely added to the experience. Looking at the reactions the next day the audience said that the rain added ‘another dimension to the film’. I found the sequence when the Japanese freighter that Pi and his family are on begins to sink particularly effective. It’s a pretty exciting action scene anyway but due to the bad weather on screen and where we were sitting, it felt like I was in the storm with Pi and in reference to the ‘added dimension’ it felt like we were watching an immersive 4D version.

Thankfully the rain did stop in the second half of the film but the effect continued purely from being by the sea and hearing the sounds of the waves and smelling the salty sea air. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, the visuals are stunning, the CGI still looks great and the performances of Irrfan Khan and primarily Suraj Sharma are exceptional.

The Sunday performance of Jaws was a much dryer occasion thank god. I was very excited to see it on the big screen as it is my favourite film. When I am asked the question of ‘What is your favourite film?’ and I say ‘Jaws’, it is usually met with a response of ‘Oh..really?’. After seeing the film with a cinema audience I still find that response odd. After 40 years the film still holds up very well, the story is gripping, the characterisation and development is second to none and it is still pretty terrifying.  It was a phenomenon back in 1975 and when the film was announced for the Tinside Lido screening, the Friday showing sold out within a few hours and the Sunday showing was introduced due to overwhelming demand. The Jaws phenomenon clearly still continues and there have been few ‘Summer event’ films that have equaled the quality of the film.

I went to see it with some family and friends and interestingly I was sat next to my friend’s 7 year old son who was watching Jaws for the first time. Coincidentally I was 7 when I first watched it. He knew the ‘Jaws Theme’ and what it meant and whenever the music got intense he would cover himself up in his blanket so he didn’t see the horror on the screen. During the dialogue scenes he was fine but during the first hour he was too scared to see the Shark attacks. As it was a late one he fell asleep by the second hour so it is yet to be confirmed whether he would have been as scared by the events of the second half. It is a testament to how good the film is that is still has the power to scare, decades after it was first released.

I very much enjoyed both nights I attended at the open air cinema. The atmosphere was relaxing, there were great audience reactions during both films and the weekend by all accounts was a great success. The location could not have been more perfect for these two awe-inspiring films that are ultimately about our fear and fascination of the water and what lies beneath it.

Benjamin Cherry

Our season of Open Air Cinema continues in August where our venue will be the beautiful Mount Edgcumbe, and in September we will be returning to Royal William Yard. More information on these screenings can be found here.

REVIEW: True To Size – Heather Phillipson

‘True to Size’ – Heather Phillipson.

A Review from Sullivan the Poet

HP TRUE TO SIZE_Part 4

Remarkable… Stimulating and enigmatic! Heather Phillipson’s installation is, as I came to understand it from my experiences amongst its constructs as a poet myself, a poem – or perhaps more a succession of poems – on the nature and current state of the modern psyche and its internalised view of itself and the world around it. The state of constant flux both within and between the two entities and their interminably changing relationship to each other. There. My opinion. Such is the overt complexity and boldly labyrinthine intricacy of this extraordinary work however; I have little or no doubt its next reviewer will see something entirely different at find themselves comprehensively at odds with every word I have just written. Such is the subtly chameleonic nature of this extraordinary creation… And in that is indubitably its conundrum.

 

Yet it captures the essence of change with the clarity and incision of an eye surgeon’s first stroke with the scalpel… Follow the installation through its numbered phases and absorb, immerse and engage with its subliminal messages; the thoughtful and precisely wrought video and the almost breathless delivery of the words and auto suggestions.

 

Stand silent in the centre of components 5, 6 and 7… And give yourself up to being overwhelmed by the messages that climb and scramble and clamour over each other for your attention and the audio visual assaults that crash down on you like a sensory tsunami before you try and make sense of it all. I did just that…

Then, as I did, go back to the beginning and start again. Discover for yourself a whole new installation; flexing and posturing as it moulds and melds itself, even through the continuity of mood and motif, into a new and undiscovered artwork. With a hitherto undiscovered plethora of fresh aural metaphors and visual similes to tease both the intellect and the senses… Its schizophrenic character and its multiplicity of perverse and gleefully unrepentant personalities.

 

I have deliberately resisted the temptation to attempt to define this singular work in every detail – for the experience of it will inevitably be as individual to each viewer as their own fingerprint. Therein, I believe, are its motives and its being – Its philosophy and its ‘raison d’ être

Sullivan

 

TRUE TO SIZE will be available to view in the Plymouth Arts Centre gallery until September 30th

Review: True To Size – Heather Phillipson

A video response to our current gallery exhibition TRUE TO SIZE – Heather Phillipson, from Lee Batchelor.

Heather Phillipson’s commission for the Arts Council Collection’s 70th anniversary, TRUE TO SIZE, is a series of video, audio and sculptural works that present a sequence of post-human landscapes. Situating mass-produced images and objects of consumption and communication, this is a commission in its freest sense: a world that resembles our own, translated via Phillipson’s imagination into physical space.

TRUE TO SIZE will be available to view at the Plymouth Arts Centre gallery until 20th August.

Lee Batchelor

Gallery Review: True To Size – Heather Phillipson

A video response to the current exhibition at Plymouth Arts Centre – True To Size from Heather Phillipson.

Thanks to Aiden, Bec and Dillon for visiting the exhibition and producing this video to document their response to the pieces in the gallery. True To Size will be available to view in the gallery at Plymouth Arts Centre until 20th August 2016.

For more information on the exhibition visit our Box Office or click here for opening times and details on the artist.