There’s not a deadline that can’t be met, nor one that can’t be missed, during my stay in London. The film festival will keep on running whether I publish my reviews in time or not, but will I keep on running? I didn’t particularly feel like it when I awoke this morning to the effects of four hours’ sleep and many more hours’ drinking beforehand. Today would be a relaxing day, I reasoned. I’ve just the one review to write from yesterday, and just the one film to see today, and surely the hangover would pass… please?
Surely enough, it did, and equally surely, it was of little consequence. Life will still find a way of making me work for my contentment, of pulling me back when I need to drive further forward, and vice versa. The deadlines I set myself will prove more steadfast than the ones which are set for me – turn up at 6:30pm for your film and you can bet you’ll be kept waiting an extra ten minutes. Miss my own time targets, set in motion a backlog of work that’s somehow been allowed to become a secondary concern, and time might as well stand completely still. I’m anal like that. I’m anal like a few other ways too…
That 6:30pm screening was for Robert Eggers’ The Witch. It’d be the second consecutive day in which I’d take in only one film, an odd scenario for me at this festival, and the second consecutive directorial debut, after yesterday’s Son of Saul from Nemes László. That gave my boyfriend Thomas and myself most of the afternoon to take things as easy as we liked, and to work our way through the things we don’t normally have such time to indulge in. Or it seemed that we’d been given most of the afternoon: whether or not I’d made the best use of my lie-in (I absolutely hadn’t), whether or not I stayed productive through the morning (I absolutely did), whether or not Thomas’ own hangover would subside soon enough to get started on the day (tbh it probably did, but he never let on), we still found ourselves bound by our 6:30 deadline. I had a diary entry and a review to write, wifi to seek out wherever I could, tubes to catch, food to eat, and only then would we have shopping to do.
I always look forward to shopping more than I eventually enjoy it. I won’t wear just anything, in fact I wear almost nothing from high street stores, and I can’t bear to part with large sums of money, certainly not when they’re wasted on some item of clothing I’ll either never wear or never want to wear. And I’d have liked a new fragrance, but I didn’t exactly need one, and they’re overpriced af. Given that Thomas’ lie-in took far too long, and that lunch then took even longer, my much-anticipated shopping trip today was shorter and less fruitful than expected. Which means that this part of the diary entry will be too.
The Witch! Now here’s something I hadn’t been so eagerly-anticipating. Not that I’d expected the film to be bad – after all, I chose to spend my money on this ticket – just that I hadn’t expected it to be this good. The fellow who introduced the screening repeated the same act he’d employed the previous year when introducing It Follows, a film which had slightly tarnished my opinion on arthouse American horror films, speaking in fanboy soundbites that the audience consumed with distressing delight. The film promised to be another slick, somewhat scary, intellectually empty horror movie – much like It Follows – it wasn’t among the 2015 titles I’d been most excited to see…
It’s a terrific film, minor lack of intellectual depth aside. Alas, it aspires only to a moderate level of such qualities, trading instead in well-pitched commentary on religion and familial relationships, and on the intersection between these two, and in an even better-pitched atmosphere, constructed with mastery by all involved. The score initially seems to overwhelm the film (in the post-screening Q&A, director Eggers spoke of his decision to include non-diegetic music at all, accurately deducing that there were emotional elements not articulated by the film unless this soundtrack was added), but soon becomes identifiable as an integral part of its artistic structure. The visual design is stark and foreboding, and never too overtly, maintaining a manageable balance between reality and fantasy. The acting is of exceptionally high quality, and I genuinely don’t think I’ve seen so well-acted a film all year; every significant character, whether leading or supporting, is magnificent.
The Q&A was kept brief enough for me, though it was fairly informative. Director and writer Robert Eggers spoke engagingly about his keenness for genre films based upon personal themes and topics, and of his film’s apt genesis in inspirations of Eggers’ own past. Actor Ralph Ineson described how the cast was presented with lookbooks to inform them of the style that their director would be adopting for this quite specific setting of 1630s rural New England. Fellow actor Anya Taylor-Joy looked as though she’d just stepped out of a lookbook herself, clad in a beguiling Valentino dress whose vaguely pagan design seemed a canny fit for the film she was in attendance to promote. There were questions from the audience, and they were stupid, because by and large, members of the public who volunteer to pose questions at post-screening Q&As of genre films are wankers, and one look in their direction and I had confirmation of that prejudgement.
Tissues out, readers! My darling beloved departs this realm tomorrow. Not to heaven, but to Belfast, though which he considers preferable is up for debate. He’ll be catching the first two of my three titles tomorrow (back to my busy best!) – first is Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin, which had better be as brilliant as I’ve been led to believe; second is Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s welcome return to directing Evolution, and lastly is the second of six documentaries that I’ll see while at LFF this year, Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotics, Etc. Night night!
Remember, Twitter is @screenonscreen, Facebook is Paddy Mulholland, phone no. is 911, your emergency is a debilitating deprivation of fierceness, your remedy is me!