Category Archives: Film

The Bridge @ The Guild of Students

the bridge

Making a film can’t be easy. Making a film really can’t be easy when you’re a student, so Cassiah Joski-Jethi’s The Bridge is a triumph for just existing. Written and directed by Joski-Jethi, co-directed and produced by Nicole Rixon and Elisha Owen respectively, and featuring a cast of almost exclusively students, The Bridge follows Lynn (Stephanie Rendall), an eighteen year-old woman whose dreams of being a dancer are interrupted by family tragedy, incompetent adults and an inescapable neighbourhood.

The most striking thing about the film was its stunning shots. Selly Oak and Edgbaston are substitutes for London, and while the landmarks are recognisable for any University of Birmingham student, the shots set up by Joski-Jethi are beautiful. Lynn’s isolation is a key part of this film, and Joski-Jethi utilises space, depth and blurring to add to this effect. The canal-side scenes are perhaps the most visually-arresting, and should make anyone who lives in Birmingham reconsider the city’s beauty. Nick Charlesworth’s original score is equally as beautiful, creating a sense of tranquillity in the troublesome world of the film.

The film is host to some good performances, and an excellent balance of the humorous and serious. The Officer (Jack Robertson) and Jane (Anna Roberts) offer some brilliant and much needed comedic relief throughout the film, while Lynn’s relationships with other characters explore connections more seriously, focusing on obligation and trust. The interactions between Lynn and Bobby (Ethan Owen), her younger brother, are particularly enjoyable to watch: the script wonderfully captures the sibling dynamic.

In her pre-screening speech, Joski-Jethi stated that she felt the film was a time capsule containing the houses her cast have lived in, buildings that no longer exist and streets that we walk down daily. This astute way of identifying the film can encompass the film as a whole: undoubtedly, when some of the cast and crew have made their names in the film or theatre industry – as the hard work and performances indicate – this film will contain their early work; perhaps one day it will gain a cult status.

Not only were the audience given an exclusive viewing of the film, we were lucky enough to watch the ‘Making of’. In a film where most of the characters are isolated, or seem to lack true friendships, it was lovely to see the cast and crew of The Bridge working together harmoniously and having fun.

Post-screening entertainment also included a performance from the recently formed a capella group the J Walkers. Their original arrangements of popular songs including Amy Winehouse’s ‘Back to Black’ and Ray Charles’s ‘Hit the Road, Jack’ were incredibly impressive and enjoyable to watch.

The evening was concluded with a sketch show set from comedy duo Jacob Lovick and Tyler Harding. The pair’s comedic timing was on point and their comradery palpable. The duo’s set was well-rehearsed, and incorporated the slight technical glitches well. Student comedy can often be quite self-referential, but Lovick and Harding’s set moved outside the university sphere, making it all the more entertaining.

What The Bridge premiere showed was an extraordinary amount of talent in the university’s community. This talent is varied, but when used effectively in a team, projects one might have thought impossible come into existence. If this is just the starting point for this group of creative individuals, I am excited to see where they go next. 

By Jenna Clake
@jennaclake

The Railway Man

The-Railway-Man

A raw, powerful, and, at times, shocking, film; The Railway Man details the real-life story of war veteran Eric Lomax, played by Colin Firth, as he struggles to deal with the horrors of his mistreatment at a Japanese prisoner of war torture camp, some twenty years after he was subjected to immense torture tactics. It is based on the memoirs written by Eric Lomax himself, and was directed and adapted by Jonathon Teplitzky.

The film often jarringly juxtaposes the two distinct sections of Eric Lomax’s life. The film begins on a quaint, jovial note, as we see Eric meet Patricia, his soon-to-be wife, played by Nicole Kidman, on board a train heading towards Scotland, a mode of transport for which it is very quickly clear that Lomax has a particular affinity for. However, their idealistic, and clearly joyful marriage, is quickly brought to a halt by the appearance of flashbacks of his horrendous time in the war. It is here that Firth’s portrayal of Lomax is particularly poignant, and cements his standing as one of the most emotionally affecting actors of his generation. Being mostly known for more sarcastic, romantically-swayed roles (read: Bridget Jones), Firth’s depiction of Lomax’s utter inability to cope with the terrors of his earlier life is distressing, disturbing, and utterly heart-breaking, and something I, many years in the future, can only imagine to be an accurate dramatic portrayal of the pain experienced by the men who endured something similar in the atrocities of war.

Jeremy Irvine does perhaps one of the film’s best jobs as he plays a younger Eric Lomax, in flashbacks used to explain to the audience what it is that the film’s protagonist experienced. Such information is learned along with Lomax’s wife Patricia, whose distressed and upset reaction is often one that mirrors that of the audience. It is Irvine’s excellent and shockingly accurate mimicry of Firth that aligns the two physically different characters with the same experience. Irvine manages so superbly to embody Firth’s character in his youth that you could be mistaken in thinking it was Firth himself, in his younger years, enacting the same role. However, the film is muted and slow in its depiction of exactly what Lomax was exposed to and, as such, it is difficult to ever fully attempt to understand the true extent of Lomax’s torture.

However, the film’s over-arching issue emerges as the past begins to catch up with Eric, and he begins to realise that he must face the realities and the injustice of what happened to him all those years ago as, Nagase, often portrayed as the perpetrator of many of the horrific acts against Lomax, has been found to be alive by Eric’s best friend and fellow war veteran Finlay. In one of the film’s most dramatic and upsetting scenes, Finlay is seen hanging himself from a railway bridge, in a poignant union of two major obsessions in Eric; the war, and railways. The meaning of the death is left ambiguous, leaving the audience wondering whether it was solely a means of encouraging Lomax to hunt down Nagase as a means of closure, or a desperate attempt to end Finlay’s own internal torture formed at the hands of the war. Either explanation adds to the incredible tension and sadness of the film, as it once again reaffirms the reality of the horrific effects of the war, long after it has come to an end.  It similarly reiterates the importance of Eric’s situation, and the magnitude of the choice between revenge and forgiveness, in the face of his life-long enemy.

A film that is ultimately about the need for closure and forgiveness, The Railway Man may not possess many of the loaded, highly dramatic scenes of other war films, but it is here that I believe its strength lies. It focuses more on the bonds that are created during war, for better or for worse. For this reason, I believe the film and the cast were utterly overlooked for awards season – particularly the cast, who do the most to make this film the powerful, emotional depiction of war it is.

By Amy Hunt

12 Years A Slave

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A few hundred words to review 12 Years A Slave will simply not do it justice; posing the question where on earth to begin with a film that evoked such an array of emotions? One thing I will say, to me this film was flawless in its portrayal of the characters, the setting of the plantations and most importantly in the stark reality of the hardships and brutality faced by the slave population. To miss out on such a moving, powerful film would be doing a great disservice to yourself.

Steve McQueen, British director of 12 Years A Slave, has already won himself an award for best director from the New York Film Critics Circle alongside a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture with this film. It is rumoured he may soon become the first black film-maker to win an Oscar for best director. McQueen is also known for his first feature length film, Hunger which won him the Camera d’Or award. Again starring Michael Fassbender, it is another uncomfortable yet poignant watch and after having seen both films, the parallels between them are numerous.

So what is the film about? The plot, with screenplay by John Ridley, follows the true 19th century memoir of Solomon Northup played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Solomon is a musician, husband, father and educated citizen of New York State who in 1841 is betrayed, kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. From where his journey begins, being sold to plantation owner, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) to his run-ins with Tibeats, Ford’s cruel farmhand (Paul Dano) and finally to his sale and subsequent torment at the hands of plantation owner Epp’s (Michael Fassbender). Solomon Northup is deprived of his identity, unwillingly renamed ‘Platt,’ his dignity and most of all his humanity.

Similar to McQueen’s Hunger, and what contributed consistently to the raw poignancy of 12 Years A Slave, were the long single-take scenes. From a lengthy close up of Solomon’s pained face, to being cruelly strung up to a tree, left to dangle on the edge of his life whilst the plantation quietly ambled on around him. The minutes seem to drag by as some of these single scenes made for an extremely uncomfortable watch; however their purpose is subtly yet powerfully evident. Undoubtedly what is most shocking and what appears to be the driving force behind this emotional powerhouse, is the brutality. One scene, that I can’t seem to shake off and which left me feeling sickened to the point where myself and a couple of other people in the cinema had to look away, was the whipping of Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o). The uncensored and unflinching violence inflicted on Patsey during this scene as well as over the course of the film, remained just under the level of gratuitous but simply realistic stopping the film from becoming just another Hollywood blockbuster.

Whilst the majority of the focus may be on the brilliance of Chiwetel Ejiofor and rightly so, Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Epps is what struck me most. Having seen a great deal of what he’s already starred in such as Inglorious Basterds, Eden Lake, A Dangerous Method and Hunger, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him so far. His character, Master Epps bordering on psychotic and sadistic was frighteningly unpredictable, creating almost unbearable scenes of suspense. Fassbender personified the barbarianism and cruelty capable of plantation owners and did so with terrifying ease. At the other end of the spectrum, Solomon Northup alongside Patsey brought to life the suffering and struggle of the slave population. Solomon especially so with his heart-wrenchingly pure facial expressions of utter anguish and despair. Chiwetel Ejiofor skilfully never underplays or overdoes the role of his character, bringing an unquestionable and relatable quality to Solomon.

Whilst 12 Years A Slave is not an easy watch by any means, it has brought back to the forefront of people’s minds a topic that we may have become desensitized to over time. This beautiful yet harrowing film left me feeling emotionally drained and somewhat disillusioned with human nature’s brutal capabilities, yet also with reaffirmed faith in the unbelievable strength of human spirit to overcome all the odds, at all costs.

Elin Morris
@ElinMorris2509

Wolf of Wall Street

wolf of wall street

Scorsese’s latest picture is a three hour drug-fuelled, sex-driven marathon, with Leonardo Dicaprio taking the helm as a modern day Caligula. With one of his best films since the likes of Goodfellas and The Aviator, Scorsese gives us unadulterated access to the world of avarice, lust and amorality: Wall Street in the 90’s.

Based on the real life antics of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo Dicaprio), a stock broker, who manages to scam clients into buying stock to make millions a week for his own company Stratton Oakmont. With the likes of Danny Porush (Jonah Hill), Belfort’s right hand man, and Naomi Lapaglia (Margot Robbie) Belfort’s wife, the supporting cast itself is worth the fee of admission. The often dark, comedic wittiness between Dicaprio and Hill, reminiscent of some of Robert De Niro’s and Joe Pesci’s most memorable scenes in Raging Bull and Goodfellas, captures the enticing nature of the debauchery these men led their lives with.

Though there are no moral judgements passed. There are no real consequences and comeuppance for these characters, which has led to outcries in America. Contrary to these claims of Scorsese glamorising this world, more likely it is that we are left to bring judgement to these characters as adults. We are not told to condemn or do anything except watch Belfort’s antics through his own eyes and judge for ourselves.

With the Wolf of Wall Street getting five Oscar nominations, and with other heavyweight contenders this year such as the powerful 12 Years a Slave, or the less masterly of them, American Hustle, there is no chance that the film will do a clean sweep. The best hope lying with Dicaprio is his best actor nomination. More importantly, as most of Scorsese’s films have attempted, this film is like a mirror being held at our society right now, which is why there have been so many damning critiques about its amorality and debauchery. We all accept that this level debauchery happens daily, but find it hard to accept it when shown to us on a screen.

But, as is the case, you’re left in awe and feel guilty for it. After the economic downpour we still suffer from, why are we left with this mixture in our mouths?  Or as we leave the cinema, or throughout the film when you’re titillated, and at times go along with the ‘bad’ man, why does that happen?  Maybe what best describes this is from one of the many monologues Dicaprio recites in the movie: “There’s no nobility in poverty. I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor, and I choose rich every f*****g time. At least as a rich man, when I have to face my problems, I can show up in the back of a stretch limousine, wearing a two-thousand-dollar suit and a twenty-thousand-dollar gold watch! And, believe me, arriving in style makes your problems a helluva lot easier to deal with.” Maybe this is the message to be left with, all of us have that side to us, but it’s the Jordan Belfort’s and Danny Porush’s who can keep on pushing against restraint and trust. And many of us, with the right circumstances and changes, could potentially do the same and pick the rich life, the so-called good life.

By Shantok Jetha

Kill Your Darlings

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Allen Ginsberg is the man that made me love and write poetry. Not only did he introduce me to my biggest love, his opinions regarding literature, politics and sexuality often reflect my own, so to say that I revere him is an understatement.

Howl, the film about Ginsberg starring James Franco, is phenomenal. I was blown away by Franco’s ability to capture Ginsberg’s voice, intonation and mannerisms brilliantly. When I heard, then, that Daniel Radcliffe, master of wooden acting in the Harry Potter franchise and The Woman in Black, was taking on the role of my favourite poet, I was outraged. I’ve known about Kill Your Darlings for quite some time, and have been waiting for its release with trepidation. I expected that my experience of it would be riddled with disgust and a sardonic running commentary.

Contrary to popular belief, I like it when I’m proved wrong: just only when it’s for all the right reasons. Radcliffe was, quite honestly, great, and I’m not even ashamed to admit it. His accent was spot on (perhaps he didn’t quite reach Franco’s standard), and I was endeared by his performance of a young, impressionable Ginsberg.

What is Kill Your Darlings about, then? It follows Ginsberg after his acceptance into Columbia University, where he meets Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), an anti-establishment literary revolutionary, and some of the earliest members of the Beat Generation, including Jack Kerouac.

Of course, when you think of the Beat Generation, you think of sex, drugs and alcohol, and you get that in Kill Your Darlings: Ginsberg and co. write during Benzedrine binges, attend underground parties and never really seem to suffer from the consequences of their actions. It is common for this generation to glamorise the exploits of a former generation, but I do think that it is at least used carefully in this film: the glamorisation isn’t to the level of Great Gatsby, and the sex scenes are poignant, emotional and raw, not gratuitous.

These scenes, emotional or humorous (in fact, I was surprised at how much I laughed during this film) were carried by an incredible cast. DeHann, known for his appearance in The Place Beyond the Pines and his upcoming performance in The Amazing Spider Man 2, had incredible onscreen chemistry with Radcliffe; the sexual tension was palpable, and their bond was entirely believable. DeHaan’s angelic look is at odds with his character’s actions, and this only contributes to his allure.

Jack Huston also made an excellent Kerouac, embodying the man I have imagined since reading On the Road: at times he was excitable and frivolous; at others he handled the film’s more serious tone deftly. I also particularly enjoyed Ben Foster’s portrayal of William S. Burroughs; it was a far cry from his disturbing (but excellent) performance in Alpha Dog, indicating his talent. Michael C. Hall made a superb David Kammerer: he was unnerving and frustrating. It is easy to overstep the line when playing an obsessive character, but Hall handled it very well.

While the film concerns a literary movement, this is actually a film with love at its core – however clichéd that sounds. The film explores the difficulty of being homosexual – not only socially, but within the eyes of the law – and the troubled nature of relationships. The writers’ possible addiction to drugs is mirrored in their addiction to one another: romantically or intellectually, the friends become embroiled in difficult and messy relationships, to the extent that their morals are incredibly questionable.

Circles play an important role in this film, so the fact that the film’s structure and shots reflect this subtly is a display of the craftsmanship behind it: scenes are often played in reverse, and then replayed to mimic the movement of a spinning record. On the subject of music, the film’s soundtrack is excellently selected, mixing 1940s jazz, classical and modern songs (which didn’t actually feel anachronistic at all).

I was pleasantly surprised by Kill Your Darlings. I thought that I would have to compare it to Howl, and that Howl would inevitably win. However, I have now realised that to do so would be unfair: these films are entirely different and attempt to achieve something utterly unalike. This is a film that is beautifully and intelligently shot and features some excellent actors. It is an accolade when a film makes it onto my DVD shelf; I think Kill Your Darlings will be joining Howl very soon. 

By Jenna Clake
@jennaclake

Cine Excess Festival presents: Siren @ mac

siren

Siren is probably one of the most beautifully shot American indie films to come out this year which is also harrowingly sleek and violent. The last showing for the Cine Excess Festival, and slightly less violent as its predecessors, it was all the more pleasant to end on this high.

The film follows the life of Leigh played by Vinessa Shaw, a woman who emits a scent which drives men to crazily fall in love with her. When they see her they don’t see Leigh but their own wonder woman in place of her, each man seeing a different woman in her, and all fall deadly lovesick for her leading to disastrous consequences both comic but disgusting too as we see with Carl (played by Ross Partridge). We see Leigh trapped in a house by herself, trying to keep tabs on potential visitors through her vast surveillance cameras around her property, and being swatted with flowers daily by her suitors which help mask her scent.

The narrative really thickens when Robert Kazinsky’s character Guy (Kazinsky who was a well known fixture in the popular show EastEnders) by chance arrives at Leigh’s house and is unaffected by her scent and both fall in love with each other. Without giving much away what follows is an exploration on what love really means and the effect our senses have on us and our actions and how quickly we resort to violence in order to get what we want.

Shaw’s Leigh has moments of charming class which light up the screen aided by the beautiful cinematography. Her naivety of her condition and her strength in fighting for herself is heart-warming. But all the more it’s a subtle statement of our time. The lengths she goes to protect herself, she has to send some of her essence (her blood) to perfume companies globally who distribute microscopic amounts of her to help sell their products and cause attraction. It’s a statement to our modern narcissistic qualities. Peyronel’s world where others strive to capitalise on beauty and being attractive, and where love all to easily leads to violent tendencies is creepily reminiscent to our current situations.

Maybe not the most deserving of being in a festival where violence is often full of blood-lust and psychological trauma, Siren is an easily watchable film which manages to keep you hooked subtly with is vigour and charm.  

 By Shantok Jetha

Romeo and Juliet @ mac

Romeo-and-Juliet-2013

Upon arriving at the mac cinema to see the new Romeo and Juliet film I was interested to see what a new adaptation of this epic love story could offer. However, it turns out not much.

Romeo and Juliet are meant to be young lovers destined for heartbreak; however Douglas Booth’s portrayal of Romeo was more confused teenager than star-crossed lover. It felt as if he was simply going through the motions, it never felt as if he was engaging with the language and frankly at points just seemed like he was uninterested in what he was saying.  Juliet was slightly better, but the famous scene with Juliet on the balcony made me wince, the whole scene was so Disney I felt like she was going to break into song at any moment.  The worst thing about this portrayal of Romeo and Juliet was just that, Romeo and Juliet. There was more tension created between Juliet and Tybalt in one scene than Romeo and Juliet across the whole film.

The film sticks to the plot of the Shakespearian original but not to the original Shakespearian traditional dialogue which didn’t do the film any favours. They didn’t improve it in any way, and there was the odd line here and there that felt so modern, it was as if the actors had just slipped back into modern day. Another serious flaw with this film was the treatment of some of the most famous lines in history: “a plague on both you’re houses” was barely even finished, and “Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo” was basically sung at me.

The best character in the film was Benvolio played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, who gave an emotional and at times touching performance.  The scene where he travels to tell Romeo of Juliet’s supposed death the young actor’s performance was truly heart-wrenching, this however only served to show Booth up, as his reaction to the news of his lover and wife’s death is met by nothing more than a frown and single tear. There were some fantastic portrayals by the supporting cast, Fryer Lawrence played by Paul Giamatti and Lord Capulet by Damien Lewis added some much needed authority and quirkiness to the film.

It’s clear what’s happened here, the film has been aimed at a teenage ‘twilight type’ audience, and little more thought has been given to the film than to cast a Romeo that girls can swoon over and a Juliet girls can hope to be. But it’s just so infuriating that they feel the need to reduce such a brilliant work such as Romeo and Juliet into this attempt to sell it to a younger audience. Don’t under estimate young people, you shouldn’t dumb something so beautiful  down just to appeal to an audience that would rather watch Edward and Bella look moodily off into the distance than understand a great literary work anyway.

By Noemi Barranca
@NoemiBarranca