(Above: Michael Eklund as Eadweard, and Sara Canning as his wife, Flora.)
The BC Film Eadweard, a biopic about Eadweard Muybridge by writer/director Kyle Rideout and writer/producer Josh Epstein, is fast taking over film festivals around the world. Based on the the Electric Company’s play Studies in Motion, (written by Governor General Award winner Kevin Kerr), the film explores the main character’s journey from creating the largest photographic study of human & animal locomotion to his other mark in history: being the last American to be acquitted of murder on the grounds of justifiable homicide. And while those two topics are pivotal to the plot, the experience of watching the movie reveals two other storylines: that of an obsessive man’s downward spiral, and of his wife’s solitary and unfulfilling existence.
The filmmakers weave a world filled with richness, a world that is torn between motion and stillness, drive and uselessness. It is a world where despair for both husband and wife is borne out of the gender roles of the era, and his inability to see past his own needs and drives. The audience is sucked into both characters truths, filled with both admiration and sympathy, watching the inevitable unfold before us. And while the pain of the reality of that world is decidedly felt, the film is also charming and filled with disarming humour. As a result, despite what would appear to be a heavy film, the audience leaves with a surprising amount of levity.
Visually, the film is nothing less than stunning. The cinematography is lush, the costumes and production design are seamless, and the score couldn’t be more perfect. It’s easy to slip back in time, and feel like a fly on the wall, as it all falls into place like a window through time. And in watching the actors’ performances, the filmmakers’ theatre background clearly shows. There is a kind of playfulness that we rarely get to enjoy in film, and the actors take up space, using their bodies to express their tales with freedom – breathing air into a period piece, unlike the usual stiffness with which historical works are typically handled. The result is fresh, and remarkably human, with no stodginess or distance between the audience and the people portrayed.
And whether the filmmakers intended it or not, they have made a decidedly feminist film. The contrast between the patriarchal / sexist values of the time, and how we view things today, is stark… and the filmmakers leave room for us to take in that striking divide. It is hard to not notice the madonna-whore syndrome at work in Eadward’s world, and in how he treats his work AND his wife; and through that lens, we see his (and his wife’s) misery being of his own design. As such, the film ends up being a case study on what NOT to do in marriage, and why the world is / would be a better place without such misogyny, (for women and men, alike). We also cannot escape the social hypocrisy around nudity, and our own dis/comfort with the naked body – depending on the context. Eadweard’s own body politics are partly in contrast with those of the time, and they contrast with ours as well. We inevitably discover our own dis/ability to digest nudity – in a sexual or neutral way – as we are confronted with it in the film, and are thusly faced with what remains of Victorian body negative values within our own lives.
Whether you’re a fan of photography, a lover of Victorian aesthetics, a follower of sex politics in the arts, or simply enjoy a really good story on film – this is a movie that is definitely worth seeing. You will laugh when least expected, feel for characters that surprise you, and walk away thinking about photography – and relationships – with a new perspective. This is movie watching time well spent.
- Oct 16-22 > Toronto @ The Kingsway Theatre
- Oct 16-22 > Edmonton @ Princess Theatre
- Oct 16-22 > Saskatoon @ Roxy Theatre
- Oct 16-20 > Vancouver @ Vancity Theatre
- Oct 23-25 > Cobourg @ The Loft Cinema
- Oct 23-29 > Calgary @ The Plaza Theatre
- Oct 23-29 > Regina @ Rainbow Cinemas
- Oct 29 > Forest Lambton Shores@ Kineto Theatre
- Nov 6-12 > Ottawa @ Rainbow St. Laurent
- Nov 15 > Whitehorse @ Yukon Arts Centre
- Nov 25-Dec 1 > Lethbridge @ The Movie Mill
- Dec 8 > Montréal @ Segal Centre
- Showings being added regularly.
See their website for up to date listings!
AWARDS (Select): Winner — Audience Choice Award, “Best Independent Feature Film” Maui Film Festival · Winner — Audience Choice Award, “Best Narrative Feature” Nashville Film Festival · Winner — 5 Leo Awards · Nominated for 10 Leo Awards (including best picture, director, screenwriting, and actor) · Winner — Best Actor for Michael Eklund, Alhambra Festival · Achievement in Filmmaking – Cinematography at the Newport Beach Film Festival (Mirza)
FESTIVALS (Select – over 25): Munich International Film Festival · Edinburgh International Film Festival · Gent Film Festival · The Stratford Festival of Canada · Vancouver Int. Film Festival · Oaxaca Film Festival