Wellington Scoop

Film festival diary: realities on screen


by Lindsay Shelton
Film Festival movies this week have been succeeding in persuading us to believe in alternative realities created by the film-makers.

After the festival’s premiere of “God’s Own Country,” the British director (just off a flight from London) was asked about the four central characters in his tough romantic drama. There was a palpable wish to believe that they could all be real people. But he put us right, and talked about the casting process, auditions, and making choices. The actor playing the farmer’s son (left in the photo) is from the south of England, said the director, with an accent and behaviour quite different to his on-screen role of a young man from Yorkshire. The Romanian actor was found after auditions in Bucharest. Gemma Jones, who plays the grandmother, had been the mother in the Bridget Jones comedies, and was glad to have been offered a more serious and challenging role.

The credibility of the performances was created by the talent of the director and his cast, helped by the fact that the film was shot near the farm where the film-maker grew up, and by the fact that his two main actors spent several weeks at work on the farm before they started shooting.


For “A Ghost Story,” the audience was asked to believe in a ghost who was shown as a cliched figure in a sheet with eye-holes. After the first few scenes, credibility was indeed achieved by the film-maker. So much so that there was a sense of loss and sadness during the film’s final moments. The New York Times review called it “a tour de force of sensation and a triumph of craft.”

And then, of course, the festival showed Tarkovsky’s 1979 masterpiece Stalker, beautifully restored. The reality created by its director is strange and sinister and strangely contemporary. And the film’s pace is slow – it was a shock to find that its 160-minute running time seemed to have passed in only about half an hour.

Stalker – showing again on Saturday at the Embassy at 3.30pm.
A Ghost Story – showing again on Friday at the Embassy at 4pm.
God’s Own Country is soon to have a commercial release.