Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

Christine Edzard, Rotherhithe, South London, UK, 2001
“When you ask children to be someone else, they quickly start pretending, putting on voices, telling stories. I noticed how they loved the hats we made and always put them on first: hats are like masks and transform you straight away. It’s very serious, very intense, but there is always a sense that they are playing a part. Once you study acting, you develop a technique and start analysing the process. You’re more self-aware and in control. There’s a huge difference.“ - Christine Edzard

With the help of some 350 schoolchildren from Southwark in London, between the ages of eight and eleven years, mostly the offspring of recent immigrants, and many for whom English was a second language, Christine Edzard made her second truly great film, equal if not greater in ambition to her six hour, two part, version of Little Dorrit.  There were a great many reasons that she chose working class kids for this show.  One might of course remember the play within the play in this great play.  Edzard gave her amateur thespians much more careful guidance than Peter Quince gives his fellow Mechanicals, but the spirit is much the same.  She wanted children who would become the characters, not would-be professionals with drama coaches and stage parents hanging about offstage.  Edzard's approach to filmmaking (like Aleksei German's) is to create a world for her performers to inhabit as the characters, or more truly in which, however briefly, to live and play.  The crew at Sands Films in Rotherhithe constructed an elaborate set, designed to scale, so the children might feel themselves to be fully grown in their play.  They made costumes which function as fantastic yet real clothing that these kids wanted to wear.  They took a full six months to film the entire play, in its entirety, not rushing it.  Christine Edzard and her associates made a filmic masterpiece from a dramatic masterpiece (rare things both,) and, like so many great films, it has so far gone largely unseen. 

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