Oct 7, 2010

LFF 2010 mini review: Self Made

Dir: Gillian Wearing
Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing’s first feature began, as many of her video art projects seem to have, with an advert. “Want to be in a film? You can play a character or yourself. Call Gillian.” From that advert comes this mix of drama and documentary in which members of the public take method acting classes, resulting in their each making a short film.

On the one hand, Self Made is a relatively interesting insight into The Method (even if the acting teacher can be insufferably pretentious in his interpretation of his students feelings). The results are often plain to see. Many of the participants get in touch with deep seated emotion (especially charity worker Ash) and several get real results as actors, turning in credible performances in their filmed scenes. On the other hand, this also a frequently disturbing and uncomfortable work.

The best final result is perhaps achieved by 25 year old Lian, who gives a good account of herself in a scene from King Lear, which then inspires her to get back in contact with her estranged father. Not all the outcomes seem so positive, in fact some of the participants final films are downright disturbing, and lead one to question whether therapy would be better for them than The Method.

There is also the question of whether it is entirely moral to allow some of these people to indulge their fantasies as seen in the final films. This is especially true of the fatalistic Dave, whose final film casts him as Mussolini and whose rehearsals for that role and statements about the man imply frankly disturbing things about him. Violence figures heavily in some of these lives and in some of the films. Sometimes you expect it (the bullied Jason has a violent confrontation in his film) and other times not.

In the film’s most disquieting sequence we see Ash’s film, in which he wants to do the worst thing he can think of… kick a pregnant woman in the belly. I’ve seen a lot of nasty exploitation films, but that sequence shocked me in way that even parts of IRREVERSIBLE might struggle to. While Self Made is generally pretty interesting I struggle to see the point. On my way out I said to the person I had sat with…”That was fucked up”. That’s still about all I can say; that was fucked up, I guess you can interpret that statement as you like.

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