Saturday, 13 February 2016

Wakefield Cathedral Film Club: Mr. Turner

On Monday February 15th we will be screening Mr. Turner as part of Wakefield Cathedral Film Club with Cine North. It will be our fifth screening, and we have three more following in this season.

Jurassic World - March 14th 3:30pm
The Choir - March 16th 7pm
The Lady in the Van - April 18th 7pm

Mr. Turner is a biopic of the last 25 years of Painter J.M.W Turner's life. I don't mind telling you this wouldn't have been a film I would have chosen to watch if not for this screening, but I'm glad I did. It is a film I found initially hard to get into, given that Timothy Spall's grunting performance often reminded me of Rab C Nesbit early on. His portrayal becomes endearing when he starts to interact with often snobbish sounding characters, and this contrast made me like him. Around 40 minutes into the film I really began to enjoy Spall's performance during his first trip to Margate. Turners decline in the art world is very compelling as he mocked for this experimentation in what would become known as impressionist painting. The timing of this is interestingly contrasted by the introduction of photography, during which Turner proclaims he may be finished. The film is not purely about art history though, as Turners own life is always at the forefront.

As could be expected for a film about an artist Mr. Turner is shot beautifully, and contains many a stunning vision of nature not unlike Turners own work. The image above comes from an early exchange about light, an often noticeable feature of his paintings. There are numerous references to nature in dialogue especially light and the Sun, and light is always catching the eye with the way it is allowed to creep into many interior shots, particularly through windows. Many exterior scenes are shot like like a Turner painting itself, and this is definitely apparent in director of photography Dick Popes work.

Mr. Turner is a film with interesting and sometimes humorous supporting characters also. I particularly liked a scene where John Ruskin is explaining Turners painting to Turner, only for director Mike Leigh to cut to the housekeeper yawning. This very much felt like a Blackadder moment to me, ironically a reference mentioned by film critic James King in his review. The housekeeper herself looks like she could have been pulled directly out of Blackadder III as do a few of the other characters.  High society is often shown as ridiculous in this film, as evidenced by a rather asinine discussion about gooseberries that made me feel awkward in their company. John Ruskin in particular is an ever irritating example of his, and his acting is stellar for the role however despite being shown to be an admirer to Turners work it is not made clear that he was a defender of it also, and is played in one dimension. In many of these scenes Turner remains silent and stern looking, as if to distance himself from the world around him.

Many of these characters are as interesting as Turner himself, I enjoyed scenes involving Benjamin Haydon and his downward spiral. Many reviews of the film have argued that it is too long, and while the Haydon scenes would likely be the first to go with a shorter cut I wouldn't want to lose them. Martin Savage brilliantly performs as a tragedy prone yet bitterly pompous character. His scene in the Royal Academy is a highlight of the film for me. The is no bad secondary character in the film, and all help to tell a compelling story. As someone who wasn't all that interested in the subject matter to begin with, as soon as it finished I found myself googling many of the other names in the film. In inspiring me to do this the film has in some way succeeded.

We are screening Mr. Turner at Wakefield Cathedral on Monday February 15th at 7pm
in conjunction with Cine North. Tickets are available at £5.

Our next screening will be Jurassic World on March 14th.

Rich Wainwright, February 13th 2016