Hardcore Swedish feminist porn, the debut short of Garth Marenghi (otherwise known as Mathew Holness), Rhys Ifans getting surreal with the Chapman Brothers and London harpist Serafina Steer performing live to animation. London Short Film Festival, the most diverse and exciting film festival in existence, kicks off this week for ten days of laughs, stomach churns, pant rumbles and drink.
In keeping with their reputation for bringing new talent to the forefront, LSFF are staging an exclusive retrospective of last year’s BAFTA short film winner Paul Wright. A brilliantly innovative filmmaker, his films make affective use of abstract yet emotionally charged sequences with traditional narrative. The event, Death & Transfiguration, will show four of his films, including BAFTA winner 'Until The River Runs Red', and be followed by a Q&A. Well worth a look for filmmakers and cinephiles. Dazed Digital met up with Paul Wright to chat about style and themes in his work.
Dazed Digital: Is this the first time you’ve had a retrospective of your films?
Paul Wright: Yeah, I’m only 30, I thought retrospectives come about when you’re at the end of your career. It’s great, obviously. It will be interesting to see them back-to-back as well. Not many laughs in there though, it needs something in the middle, half time entertainment or something.
DD: Do you see any common themes that tie them together?
Paul Wright: It’s not deliberate, but I’d say it’s trying to find beauty and love in pretty dark places; death seems to pop up a lot. I wouldn’t over analyse it too much myself, I’m sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day with the whole thing. I guess you just write what feels true to yourself.
DD: There’s often a central character who has been thrown into alienation.
Paul Wright: Yeah, people on the fringes of society, they’re the characters I’m most interested in. I guess, getting into a world of these people and wondering how they might have got that way.
DD: Were you surprised when you won the BAFTA?
Paul Wright: My very first film actually was nominated for a BAFTA, so that was 4 or 5 years ago, Hikikomori. It’s been good, I’ve always had enough people supporting my work. It’s great when you’re trying to do something a bit different that certain people are digging it anyway.
DD: Do you mean you’re trying to do something stylistically different?
Paul Wright: Possibly. I’ve always been most interested in stuff that’s on the fringes, whether it’s film or music. I think with film especially, even when I was younger, I was surprised by how similar a lot of them look and feel, so I think even if it’s just a little but different, you feel it. There’s not a formula for how to make film, the possibilities are endless.
DD: How do you see the balance between the abstract and more traditional narrative tools in your films?
Paul Wright: Well, the idea is to have images or sounds that evoke mood or tonally enhance the emotion that you’re trying to get across. I don’t want to make anything that only I understand, so you have to keep a story going as well. You do see things that are too abstract that you need a manual to understand what’s going on. It all comes from the heart of the idea, from the main story, that these images come from, so they’re not totally random. It’s more trying to create a mosaic around the central core of the film. The most important thing is to keep the heart of the story in there, rather than just doing style for style sake, seeing what the core, the heart, of the film is and getting to that.
DD: What awakened you to innovative filmmaking?
Paul Wright: It happened in stages, from a really young age. I’d say the first film was 'Don’t Look Now' by Nicolas Roeg. That was just a wake up call that film could be different. And then a lot of borderline experimental stuff, like the No Wave cinema and punk films. It’s as much about the energy. Even the punk aesthetic of it, I’ve always tried with my films to do that. Sometimes the ugliest images or even quality wise, rather than everything being really polished and perfect, they have a dirty feel, for me can be more powerful than when things are perfectly lit and fancy camera moves. It’s that aesthetic that I’ve always been taken by.
DD: Will you try to transpose your style into feature film projects?
Paul Wright: To a degree. I see that even the shorts can be quite relentless, so it will be interesting seeing them at the retrospective back to back. I realise you need the islands for when things do slow down a little bit. At the moment I’m interested in experimenting and seeing the best way if getting from beginning to end in a feature, but to maintain energy all the way through so it doesn’t become overly repetitive of what have you.