Turner Prize winning British artist Gillian Wearing's debut feature is a powerful and provocative documentary/ experiment. She takes a handful of ordinary people from the north of England - all volunteers - and puts them in a work-space with a method acting teacher, Sam Rumbelow. Together, they use basic method acting techniques to explore their emotional lives and use that material to create fictional "end-scenes" - little cinematic vignettes that are shown at the end of the movie. The resulting film is a deeply moving exploration of the participants' past lives - many of them are victims of abuse, neglect, violence. I was humbled by how honest and open they were and I was scared in some cases by the emotion on screen. But I think the reason why this movie affected me so much was that it made me consider how many hours a week I spend in the company of actors - and how far the performances I am watching are informed by inner hurt - and how far that is healthy for the actors and exploitative on my part. I mean, in using the method, the actor is basically cannibalising his own past, voluntarily, but how far should we be party to that? I also felt really uncomfortable by the fact that Wearing had clearly chosen the participants because "they had a story to tell" - in other words, she'd gone for the most vulnerable people - and then forced them to mine those vulnerabilities. These participants did not sign up to that, knowing in advance what the method was. So how far is that an exploitation? And shouldn't they have done this with a qualified therapist in the room, rather than an admittedly sympathetic acting teacher? So, a powerful film, to be sure, but problematic in the extreme.
The movie does not yet have a release date.
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