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Candid at Edinburgh International Film Festival 2015 – Part 1

June 22, 2015

FestivalsFilm + Entertainment | by Francesco Cerniglia


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Now in its 69th year, the Edinburgh International Film Festival is the oldest continually running festival of its type in the world. Describing itself as ‘intimate in scale, ambitious in scope’, the festival welcomes over 1,400 industry delegates, filmmakers and members of the press, as well as offering many public screenings over its two-week run.

The World Premiere of Robert Carlyle’s directorial debut feature, The Legend Of Barney Thomson was the Opening Night Gala of this year’s EIFF 2015 last Wednesday, June 17th. In addition to directing the film, Carlyle (Trainspotting, The Full Monty) plays the titular antihero Barney, alongside a standout supporting cast including Emma Thompson, in one of the most transformative roles of her career, Ray Winstone, Tom Courtenay, Ashley Jensen and Martin Compston.

Adapted from a highly successful, darkly comic crime novel series, The Legend Of Barney Thomson is a gutsy, macabre and hilarious crime thriller, with a pitch-perfect performance from Carlyle as the archetypal underdog. The theatrical release by Icon Film Distribution will follow in UK and Ireland on July 24th and we’ll have full coverage on week of release.

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David Rühm’s Therapy For A Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch) held its UK Premiere on Friday night, with the writer-director on hand to introduce the film and take part in a Q&A session afterwards.

Vampire stories still feel an en vogue subject matter; with the recent critical success of A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night proving that our thirst for new twists on the genre still runs deep. Rühm manages to flip this trend on its head, celebrating convention with his cloaked Count and Countess, played by Tobias Moretti and Jeanette Hain. By straddling the gap between an accessible, ghoulish romp and a deeper exploration of the traditional vampire myth, Therapy For A Vampire revives often-overlooked elements of their make-up, such as the vampire’s obsessive need to count objects (there is history behind the Sesame Street skit).

With a smart cast and a rich, vivid 1930s setting, Therapy For A Vampire not only paves the way for clever, comedic vampire films to come, but also offers additional depth with an underlying psychoanalytical sub-plot. Again, this is done in an entirely obvious yet witty way: Dr. Sigmund Freud is shown counseling the Count on the struggles he and his wife have had with ‘self-reflection’ (vampires famously cannot see themselves in the mirror). A young painter is seemingly part of the solution, but his girlfriend Lucy’s likeness to the Count’s long-lost love is a dangerous new problem. Lucy talks of her desire to ‘fly’ – a topic included in Freudian dream theories as a form of sexual release. These layers within Rühm’s script mean that audiences can enjoy different levels of psychoanalytical satire depending on their knowledge, without ever feeling excluded from or spoon-fed the jokes.

Quizzed on its reception, Rühm says that the film has travelled well thus far, with a rapturous response from a 3,000 strong crowd in South Korea. Next stop: Transylvania. Obviously.

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The Road Within held its UK premiere on Saturday evening, with first time director Gren Wells, lead actor Robert Sheehan and two of the film’s producers around to answer questions. Wells immediately seemed keen to reassure the audience that the cast and crew did thorough research with Tourette’s sufferers throughout the production, inviting a local man with the syndrome along to the screening and following panel discussion to offer his opinion on its authenticity.

The film itself is excellent, with three strong performances from its central characters: Sheehan as Vince, a young adult struggling with Tourette’s, British actor Dev Patel as Alex, who suffers with OCD and a dreamy-eyed Zoe Kravitz as Marie, a girl suffering with a life-threatening eating disorder. Whilst the film’s ‘runaway road-trip’ plot may feel well travelled, the chemistry between the leads is palpable, with their three very different conditions lending themselves to scenes of both sadness and humour.

Dev Patel’s performance is a highlight; he plays the latex-glove wearing, intimacy fearing Alex masterfully, appearing genuinely tortured by the slightest speck of dust. Credit must also go to Kravitz who dropped to 90lbs to play the skeletal Marie. Wells assures the audience that her weight loss was done under careful supervision, though the actress, much like her director, has spoken openly about her struggles with anorexia in the past. There’s something about this honesty that makes The Road Within all the more endearing as a film, as no parties appear to be taking a patronising or exploitative approach to portraying characters struggling with mental illnesses.

The Road Within is currently without a UK distributor, although the widely positive reception in Edinburgh could signify the first step towards changing that.

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Funded by the BFI and nominated for the festival’s Best British Feature Award, there was a lot of hype surrounding Saturday’s World Premiere screening of Simon Pummel’s Brand New U. A queue snaked itself through the cinema lobby and up the stairs, as audiences clambered to see the first drama from the acclaimed documentary and animation filmmaker.

Set in a murky, futuristic reality, Brand New U shows lead character Slater (Lachlan Nieboer) plunged into a paranoid alternate world when intruders break in and abduct girlfriend Nadia (played by Nora-Jane Noone). Left only with the corpse of an identical woman, Slater is forced to search out the organisation that has taken her – “Brand New U”. The glossy,strip-lit company specialises in ‘Life Adjustments’, matching the unhappy with their ‘identicals’ so that they can take another chance at a better life. Needless to say, there is a catch: nothing from the past may be taken to this new life.

Brand New U has an astutely complex plot, making the audience unsettled as it prods them to make decisions on truth and reality within the story. It’s clear that much thought has been given to the creation of this menacing sci-fi world, perhaps at the expense of the film’s characters, who we never really get to know. Regardless, this is a fully-thought out thriller from Pummel.

The 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival continues until June 28th

Martha Ling