submitted by Nigel Ward
"Having no commercial constraints is an aid to that - not an impediment. No share-holders - no compromises. No sell-out!"
The latest symphonetix feature-film small world is to be premièred before an invited audience at Whitby Coliseum on Monday November 10 2008 - prior to general release and the festival circuit. Produced by husband-and-wife team Nigel Ward and Helga Marrs, whose last film ‘Freyja's Gift' aroused such controversy in Whitby in 2006, small world is an outlandish fantasy with a plot reminiscent of a Möbius strip. [Wiki that, in case the boss asks!].
The film examines the ‘might-have-been' lives of two protagonists - Manny Keane (Shaun Bowman), a ‘lifer' prisoner in Singapore's Changi Prison, and prison chaplain, Father Ewan Maude (Jack Douglas), a missionary priest - both of whom died in the Changi Prison library fire of 2006. In a tacit ‘what if?' leap of fiction, they are reprieved from death and gravitate independently to the idyllic village of Ugglebeck in the Esk Valley - Manny to check out the wisdom of seeking a rapprochement with Cissie Laing (Glenda Mirren), his fiancée of thirty years ago - and Father Ewan in search of the ‘perfect' girl with whom, as a teenager, he shared his only sexual encounter, Cissie's twin, Mara Laing (Tilda Marie Dace). Their ensuing clash of wills is only one strand in an intricate web of disturbing psychological cross-currents. And the prize is a shot at redemption - plus Mattie Laing (Helga Marrs) - Mara's illegitimate autistic daughter, now a beautiful but whacky young woman of thirty. Ostensibly, small world tells a story of jealousy, betrayal and paternal love - but with a sub-text that deals directly with issues of faith, free will and the immortality of the human mind.
Says director Nigel Ward, "It is a commonplace to make a film that portrays a flight of the imagination; I wanted to examine the source of imagination - and its power to evoke a reality that stands on equal footing with the so-called ‘real world'. For example, the fact that a man merely imagines himself to have been cuckolded in no way nullifies the consequences of his subsequent actions - the vengeance he wreaks is unquestionably real. Just ask your local philanderer."
Visually, small world is a stunningly beautiful film, shot in some of North Yorkshire's best-kept-secret beauty-spots, and with a cast of over thirty actors and actresses drawn entirely from the Whitby area. The interior scenes, too, have a magical quality - from the opium den in Bangkok and Father Ewan's reliquarian drawing-room, to the surreal Hall of Judgement - scene of the sensational climax. As with previous symphonetix releases ( Magus, The Language of Flowers and Freyja's Gift), small world features an original music soundtrack composed and produced by the director. Says Nigel Ward, "small world has been produced with no budget, no sponsors and no grant money. How do we do it? We have had the unstinting support of the local community - well over a hundred local people have contributed props, wardrobe and locations. All of the cast and technical crew have excelled in rising to the challenge of producing a convincing cinematic experience founded on sheer enthusiasm and team spirit. Hollywood notwithstanding, film is a medium that can transcend the shallow and the simplistic. Having no commercial constraints is an aid to that - not an impediment. No share-holders - no compromises. No sell-out!"
A CONVERSATION WITH THE DIRECTOR
Q Like all your previous films, small world has an intricate and some might say bizarre story-line. How do you go about contriving the plots for your films?
NW I'm not interested in stories. Stories are ten-a-penny. You've heard them all before. I'm interested in people - the ways in which they deal with one another, with themselves, and with the world at large, as they imagine it to be. So we start with a single character, in this case Manny Keane, and we ask ourselves who he is, who he knows, who he loves, and so on. Nobody exists in isolation, even a ‘lifer'. In a certain sense, the process of making the film is the process of getting to know Manny and the world he has been remembering - imagining - for the last thirty years.
Q But isn't it true to say that small world is as much a film about Mattie Laing, the young autistic woman whom Manny imagines is his illegitimate daughter, as it is a film about Manny the ‘lifer'? And, indeed, isn't it equally so a film about Father Ewan's crisis of faith and his battle with celibacy?
NW Absolutely. But the point is that we knew nothing of that when we began shooting. We start with characters, but no plot. And no script. And no budget! Everything is improvised. Not just the dialogue, but the scene/plot development, too. You could say that we shoot first and ask questions afterwards. Each scene is shot and edited before we move on. That way, the characters and their motivations and actions are emergent phenomena. It is the actors' portrayal of their characters that determines how things must develop. It's an evolutionary process.
small world credits
was conceived & developed by
NIGEL WARD & HELGA MARRS
directed and edited by
TILDA MARIE DACE
JOHN STEPHEN SCOTT
ROBYN LINDSAY ATKINS
composed, arranged, recorded and produced by
mastered in DOLBY DIGITALTM 5.1 Surround Sound - PAL DVD (ASPECT RATIO 4:3)