Cinematographer’s mirror – Bypass by Duane Hopkins/For Those in Peril by Paul Wright
It seems that a new trend of craft is rising within British Indipendent Filmmaking. Bypass (2014) by Duane Hopkins and For Those in Peril (2013) by Paul Wright are concrete instances of this. Both films are remarkable and standing out products that allow us to discover new perspectives, approaches and techniques to a certain form of storytelling: the one involved with the psychological dramas of individuals surrounded by social and interpersonal issues.
Bypass, presented this year in Orizzonti Section at the 71° International Venice Film Festival, is a traumatizing dissection of a pale world of scumbags and broken promises. After his brother Gregg is arrested, Tim, who’s only a teenager, needs to face all the complicated problems of adulthood, dividing himself between Gregg’s criminal affairs, his sister who often lies about school, and his girlfriend Lilly who turns out to be pregnant. Tim is a multilayer and multirole playmaker behaving at times like a brother, a gangster, a boy in love with his girl but terribly afraid at the perspective of becoming a father. Furthermore, he’s afflicted by a mysterious disease which makes much more tricky and dramatic his entire situation. What hits more in Bypass is the analytic and precise construction of the characters through which the director speaks directly to the audience, trying to make it empathize with the actions performed on the screen. The profound and unique voice of the characters is supported by a melancholic, cold and detached photography aimed at a visual depiction of the characters’ feelings. Tones of blue and grey are perfect and strong for a story of family drama and inner conflict, settled in the suburbs of a foggy and gloomy town in the Great Britain. In addition to that, the director filled his film with sounds, whispers and noises, building a complete sensorial compelling tale. Hopkins’ camera is nervous and restless, combining slow motion sequences, dynamic long takes and perforating close ups which leave us with a bitter taste in our mouths, pushing us to wonder, cry and laugh as much as Tim does. This creates an atmosphere that ties the audience and the characters into the same circular movement, where Hopkins’ cinematographic eye becomes Tim’s eye and the viewer’s eye as well, erasing the distances between filmmaker, narrative and audience.
For Those in Peril follows the same aesthetic and visual style and, if I didn’t know that the directors were different, I would probably have thought that the same guy was behind both movies. The plot unravels as a social personal drama that gives few occasions for a viewer to breathe and climb out from the story. Aron is a young misfit in an isolated Scottish community. He’s the lone survivor of a weird and mysterious fishing accident that claimed the life of five men, including Aron’s older brother. In a tense and unpredictable escalation of events, mixing local folklore and personal’s believes, Aron ends up in being an outcast in his own community, which blames him for the tragedy occurred. Thanks to acting performances that stun and a solid yet intersected screenplay structure, this film is a peril, a simple but original adventure exploring the distance between reality and myth, between regret for the past and aspiration for the future. While examining these topics under a careful and almost manic lens, Paul Wright is able to maintain a claustrophobic and intense register throughout the film, driving his protagonist up to the deepest and unknown regions of his soul, where nightmares, visions, and social stigmas lie silently and dangerously. Wright shows his ability as a storyteller also when, in the same scene, he intertwines personal and interpersonal conflicts, transforming his film in something multidimensional and enriched by several sides, each of them showing a different shade of this local world and of the inhabitants who populate it. The legends of a sea monsters and the terrible grief that afflict Aron are the nerves of a story that in its linearity and soft touch impresses, disturbs, and leaves an original and sensitive mark in a viewer. Lighting and Directing are very similar to Bypass, giving to the film a rigid, raw and frosty appearance that immediately transports us to the Scottish wilderness landscape. Wright’s camera completes it with an unstable and anxious style, which follows Aron’s movements in the same way through which Hopkins’ camera follows Tim, and for someone who watches at both characters, this confers to either Aron and Tim the same quality of outsiders from the society and stuck in an endless fight against themselves.
The film interrogates on whether the local legends are true or not, and on the psychological and social effects that superstition triggers in the human mind and behaviour. Bypass is a race into the alienation, misery and denied opportunities of a shuttered life. Both films are independent products, based more on concepts and ideas rather than on huge investments and visual effects. Films like Bypass and For Those in Peril widely show that good filmmaking is not only about money, stars, and huge productions, but it relies mainly on the intensity through which characters and messages become poignant, hilarious or simply emotional for an audience. Besides the visual aspects, the authenticity of the story and the sincerity of characters’ relationships is what marvels people out while watching a movie. Bypass and For Those in Peril are witnesses of this truthfully emotion. Both can arouse those sensations and feelings, similar to itchy shivers that persist even after the end credits. Personally I hope that artists like Duane Hopkins or Paul Wright will keep on working to unleash their peculiar vision into the filmmaking market.