Last Saturday Road To The Well screened at Hollywood North Film Festival, we were lucky to be one of a handful of films screening alongside Colin Farrell’s The Lobster, which won the Jury Prize at The Cannes Film Festival last year. I recently saw the film at the Sundance Cinemas on Sunset.
The Lobster is set within a society devoid of Romance, where all human behavior is broken down into it’s most pragmatic reasoning, people are viewed as objects that respond according to societal rules and self interest. Incredibly challenging roles for all the actors as there is no line or gesture spared. In this world people only speak or do things to get something in return, people should only couple up because ‘life is more manageable with two people’. And in this way others are objects, tools to get things.
The strangest thing about this film and ultimately its saving grace, is that it’s not devoid of emotional content, particularly with Colin Farrel’s character, David. Though David represses a lot in fear of the very real consequences of being turned into a lobster, underneath he is constantly following his desire, the yearning for love and a real connection with someone, for David this takes the form of "The Short Sighted Woman" played by Rachel Weisz in brilliant and subtly complex performances by both.
Not to attribute either performance to the teachings of Constantin Stanislavsky the first "Method Acting" practitioner, but it remained me of something I read in a recent edition to Constantin Stanislavsky's seminal books An Actor Prepares and Building A Character, in the introduction Declan Donnellan said;
“Like many great artists, Stanislavski navigates between these eternal poles, profane and sacred, rough and holy, earth and clouds, showbiz and sacrament. Ignoring one pole may help us feel more comfortable in the short term, but ultimately leads to artistic suicide. To live fully we need to negotiate the narrow rim between order and chaos. So Stanislavsky is not one thing. Like any great thinker he is a bundle of contradictions.” - Declan Donnellan
I went to see my co-star from Road To The Well, Micah Parker in a play last Friday, This Is Our Youth at The Raven Playhouse in NoHo Arts District, I remember the play well from studying it at The Method Studio in London under the guidance of Miriam Lucia. His performance in the role of Dennis was passionate until the very end full of energy, a kind of broken insecurity fueled by the underlying desire for companionship, a seemingly capable bruiser always on top of the situation but never quite putting the pieces together when it comes to his own motivations. Again a man who on the outside is seemingly psychopathic following some kind of design laid out for him, but underneath is driven by the desire for love. Micah has this sense of being really frustrated at all the things he doesn't understand, which comes out in his characters.
I had forgotten a piece of dialog in the middle of the play between Warren (played by Ty Lapland) and Jessica (played by Carolyn Gilroy) characters where she expresses some despondency on the passion of youth and the seemingly pointlessness of believing in any one thing in particular. I think her character is right about ideas changing, but only when it comes to reason. Because to truly understand something you need to conceive wholly of its opposition and hold in your mind a contradiction, the balancing act becomes do you then still believe in what you had originally thought even when a convincing case can be made for its opposition. The example she gives in the play is the radical 60s movement which had its roots in the far left, which transposed a rational conception of society onto a world that makes sense if our world were governed by reason, yet only instigates the emotional qualities of anger and resistance. She goes on to express her frustration that once that generation got older they all became conservative anyway and that the ideas of Liberalism were so dampened they become marginalized to handful of beaucratic charitable organizations that don’t really do that much. Chalking the whole thing up to the passions of youth.
Having had incredibly passionate beliefs of my own, that at the time of my having them felt overwhelmingly real, especially when in the grips of a character. It’s like my entire world gets reframed, but I love that feeling, I’ve become addicted to it over time. A kind of violent self destruction of my own identity that’s I’ve come to love. But I don't know that growing up and accepting the way things are is a kind of inevitably, because I don't think everyone comes to the same conclusions.
Finally it seems Los Angeles is developing something of a theatre scene:
“It is not for the sake of material gain that we have waited so long for it. No, it is the answer to our prayer for something to bring light and beauty into our humdrum lives. Let us be careful to appreciate what has fallen into our hands lest we shall soon be crying like the child who has broken his favorite toy.”- Constantin Stanislavsky, The Long-Hoped-for Child
For me it is like wrestling with the values of Method Acting, there are so many arguments standing in opposition to this way of life, devaluing preparation and innovative uses of the self towards an transformation experience captured and reframed for an audience in a narrative, projected until they run out of tape. Passion lies not in the constructs of reason and liner application, but in the emotional depth and importance of that application to the individual.
“It would be great if there existed a step-by-step fail-proof process to act well or make good theatre, but there simply isn’t - just as no religion with a first-you-do-this-then-you-do-that system can guarantee redemption.” - Declan Donnellan, Introduction To An Actor's Work
Aaron Sorkin said of writing in his recent masterclass that ‘you should be evangelical about Aristotle’s Poetics;
"Unity of plot does not, as some persons think, consist in the Unity of the hero. For infinitely various are the incidents in one man's life which cannot be reduced to unity; and so, too, there are many actions of one man out of which we cannot make one action." Aristotle, Poetics
The other features screening at Hollywood North Film Festival included fellow Dances With Films alumni Pop-Up by Australian director Stuart McBratney. Feature debut Across The Line from veteran music video helmer Director X. And ethereal drama West Of Her by director Ethan Warren.
ROAD TO THE WELL Official Trailer