The DCH Blog
Manuscripts Don't Burn - a pre-screening review - Friday 30th January 2015
Mohammad Rasoulof’s film follows two world weary, state sponsored operatives, dealing with the grim practical reality of an oppressive Iranian regime. Although the narrative is fiction, the regime isn’t, and that makes the act of making and appearing in this film a seditious act. All but the writer/director have chosen to remain anonymous, because everyone else was afraid for their lives.
It’s a sobering thought, and one that makes passing judgement over the acting, or the direction, or the cinematography, feel somehow inappropriate – distasteful even. However, it should be said that this is a tense, brilliantly executed thriller, with superbly nuanced performances from whoever is playing the central characters of Khosrow and Morteza. It’s telling that Rasoulof has chosen to tell the story from their perspective – these men may be driving around with a man in the boot, but Khosrow still frets over his child’s health, while Morteza pulls strings to get the boy into hospital. These are ordinary men forced to make extraordinary choices in impossible times – they may be thugs, but they are victims of circumstance just as much as those they hunt down and persecute.
This is an uncompromising wakeup call that at times feels more akin to a dramatized documentary - albeit one that is unapologetically didactic - and that can make for a challenging viewing experience. But it’s also one that is instructive, thought provoking and ultimately hugely rewarding.
By David Vass
Pride - a post-screening review - Thursday 29th January 2015
Following in a long line of politically driven British movies, Pride will not disappoint fans of Brassed Off or Made in Dagenham, as it explores the unlikely union between striking Welsh miners and out-and-proud gay Londoners.
Playing to the widest possible audience, Pride is packed with a reassuring cosy cast. Ben Schnetzer, as the notional lead, is rather lost amongst this barrow load of British thesps, though he does do an effective job as the still part of a turning world. Imelda Staunton is magnificent as Hefina, while Paddy Considine and Bill Nighy both distinguish themselves by nicely underplaying. It’s not something that can be levelled at the frankly bewildering disco dancing of Dominic West, though even he is nicely completed by a thoughtful Andrew Scott - they make for an oddly convincing couple.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the events unfolding is that, at least on the larger stage, they really did happen. To that extent, despite a tendency towards sentiment, the film is genuinely moving (as if you are watching history played out through gauze). For all its broad brushstrokes and primary colours it’s a hard heart that isn’t ultimately swept away by its abiding message of tolerance.
By David Vass
Treasure Island (National Theatre Live) - a review - Monday 26th January 2015
While the National Theatre is capable of staging intimate drama, it is becoming increasingly known for its grand productions. Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Treasure Island falls squarely in the latter category, with a theatrical experience that must have been jaw dropping live – on screen it is still an astonishing spectacle.
One moment the stage is occupied by a cross section of several decks of a schooner, the next we are in the midst of a belching, noxious swamp, before settling down beneath a canopy of stars. Aimed resolutely at a younger audience, Polly Findlay’s broad brush direction might ruffle the feathers of a few purists, but she manages to hit all the key notes of the source text, and there is fun to be had second guessing how Blind Pew, Ben Gunn, or Bill Bones are to be reimagined. A deliberately androgynous Jim is very well played by Patsy Ferran - one of many gender blind characters - while Arthur Darvill was a brave choice as the slippery Silver. If he sometimes gets upstaged by the radio controlled parrot on his shoulder, this underplayed pragmatist certainly offers up a different spin to the arch campness of Robert Newton.
The tone is at times uneven, and the narrative occasionally episodic but that is surely forgivable when account is taken of the commitment and ambition of this production. Genuine family shows are rarely performed on such an epic scale, and for that alone the National is to be applauded.
There is a second chance to see the production at the Corn Hall's 2pm matinee screening, Saturday 21 February.
By David Vass