square-eyed-geek at the 2014 BFI London Film Festival

Although I’ve spent years on here discussing and reviewing films, I have a confession: square-eyed-geek has never been to a film festival. Well this year I thought I’d rectify that and not just with any old film festival, but with the 58th BFI London Film Festival. And I loved every minute of it.

The 58th BFI London Film Festival

The first thing I noticed was the atmosphere. Exciting and almost electric, it was great to be in the same place as so many other film lovers similar to myself. Of course the main plus of the festival was the chance to see films that wouldn’t be released for months down the line, or that might never be released if they are unlucky enough to not get picked up for distribution. I would very much doubt that would be the case for any of the superb films I saw at the festival though.

Carol Morley’s The Falling (2014) was the first screening I went to, and what a film to start my trip down there. Morley’s second fiction feature (after her last film, the fabulous documentary Dreams of a Life (2011)) is set in an all-girls school that is suddenly hit by a mysterious fainting illness. Strange, ethereal and gripping it features perfect lead performances from Maisie Williams and the fabulous Florence Pugh in her first ever role.

One of the surprises of the festival for me was that a lot of the filmmakers were there to talk about their films after the screenings. Indeed, the LFF screening of The Falling was the world premiere of the film, so writer-director Carol Morley and the cast were all there for a Q and A after it was shown. It was great to hear Morley talk enthusiastically about the film and her writing process, as well as the film’s overarching idea and its potential meanings.

Maisie Williams and Florence Pugh in Carol Morley’s The Falling (2014)

Another female filmmaker in attendance was the brilliant director Susanne Bier who was at LFF to promote her two new films, A Second Chance (En chance til, 2014) and Serena (2014). I chose to see A Second Chance, a heartbreaking drama written by Bier’s regular film partner Anders Thomas Jensen, that packs many a devastating punch throughout and also has an ending that divided many viewers in the audience (not me though – I loved it).

Also continually hard-hitting was The Turning (2013), an Australian portmanteau film. Some of the shorts were more standout than others and some didn’t really work (‘Immunity’, ‘Reunion’ and ‘On Her Knees’ were all beautifully shot and superbly acted, but being so different in tone they interrupted the flow of the other stories). Highlights for me though were the shorts by David Wenham, Claire McCarthy, Anthony Lucas and Mia Wasikowska. The only downside of the film is that at 3 hours it is incredibly long and does tend to drag towards the end. Still that’s usually the case with portmanteau films.

As a big lover of all sorts of film genres though, I decided to mix it up and see as many different ones as I possibly could during my time at LFF. Horror came in the form of David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014) – a terrifying and tense film filled with jump scares (the man sitting next to me could barely stay in his seat) and with a central idea as old as the genre itself, yet played out in a refreshingly different way. It also has a great lead performance from Maika Monroe – one to definitely look out for after this and her stellar turn in The Guest (2014).

Angus Sampson in dark Australian comedy The Mule (2014)

My 3 festival highlights were also widely different from each other and spanned various genres. One was Eskil Vogt’s Blind (2014) – a daring look at one woman (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) who has suddenly lost her eyesight, and a twisted tale in which we are never sure what is reality and what is her own fantasy. Also a favourite for me was The Mule (2014), a dark Aussie comedy about one man who is coerced into becoming a drug mule and who inevitably ends up in big trouble. However the central concept of the story is disgustingly hilarious – far too hilarious to reveal in fact. Writer, director and all-round funny guy Angus Sampson (the human equivalent of a grizzly bear – but a cuddly one) was also in attendance to answer questions about the production and about his first major lead role in the film.

But my overall favourite film of the festival was definitely 10.000 Km (2014), a funny yet devastatingly sad drama about a couple’s long distance relationship that’s played out through the use of technology (Skype, Facebook, etc.). It also has two great and very realistic lead performances from David Verdaguer and the amazing Natalia Tena who was alongside director Carlos Marques-Marcet to discuss the film after the screening. 10.000 Km was also the film that hit me the hardest after seeing it and, along with The Mule, has stayed with me since watching it…both for very different reasons though.

Carlos Marques-Marcet’s 10.000 Km (2014)

Getting the chance to attend The London Film Festival is definitely one of my highlights of 2014. The only downside to it was that I didn’t get to stay longer and devour any more of the 248 films showing over the 12 days of the festival. Still, there’s always next year!…

Note: Full reviews of all the films mentioned still to come!

~ by square-eyed-geek on October 24, 2014.

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