Young and talented: Lancaster’s very own answers to Spielberg and Scorsese

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On the 1st of this month, I was lucky enough to attend LU Shorts, a viewing of films written and directed by four talented university students held at The Dukes playhouse. I turned up, not knowing what to expect, with actors, directors, and everyone else part of the Lancaster University Independent Film Society all anticipating the start of the show.

Hanging: A supernatural film about obsession by Julian Surface — Photo by Ben Robins)

Choosing a good seat, I had paper and pen in hand, and eventually the lights dimmed (well, when I say dimmed I mean turned off completely, resulting in my embarrassing realisation that I was to make notes in the dark), and the first image we were presented with was from James Harvey’s film Desire, with a noticeably tormented young man forcing himself to vomit. The scene was appealing, as it unfortunately revealed itself familiar to me, bringing back memories of plenty a time I’ve watched friends puke their insides out after a night out. However, as a person interested in the meaning of small detail, a striking red flower in a plant pot placed neatly on top of the toilet attracted my attention more than the invalid did. It contrasted greatly against the pale surroundings of the room, the colour red acting almost as a warning sign to tell us that this was no usual vomiting escapade. Almost instantly, the young man, who we find out to be bulimic, took the flower and ate the soil, enabling him to achieve his violent vomiting end.

It was from then on I learnt that Harvey, creator of the Lancaster University Independent Film Society, had a talent at shocking his audience with his interesting portrayals of the visual, while getting his character’s to partake in some alarming events. Particularly in this film, with other uncomfortable scenes such as attempted suicide, and masturbation. And how lucky I was to be sat next to the father of the actor convincingly playing this character, second year Theatre Studies student Michael Cole, during such a joyous occasion.

As for Harvey’s second film, Dirt, I am happy to agree with the praise I heard it get for its powerful visual imagery. The themes of this film however proved most interesting, concentrating closely on both the burden of motherhood, and loss of innocence. It had many commanding shots of the young female lead filmed in natural surroundings while naively playing with a gun she found. The dominant manmade object helped carry a feeling of destruction of the natural, which mirrored the girl’s actions of accidently killing her mum’s friend at the end of the film.

The project which appeared to test the actor’s abilities the most however was Julian Surface’s film Hanging, with elements of the supernatural, youthful obsession and even a hint of feminism. The feminist aspect of the film particularly struck me as it was portrayed through a gender role reversal, with the female character raping her boyfriend. Gilly Hulse who played the role, gave a powerful performance of the conflicted nature of love, while co-star Luke Weeks successfully took on the character which revealed the destructive student, destroying his life before it properly begins. However, the decision to shoot some parts of the film in busy areas caused difficulty with sound, and I struggled to hear what the actors were saying a lot of the time.

With Harvey and Surface stealing the limelight for acting, I have to admit that it was Matthew Anderson’s film A Lost Dream that had the biggest effect on me as a whole. Anderson’s choice of images and sound made up a gorgeous treat for the senses, the voice-over and music completely captivating me, so much so that I couldn’t stop to make notes. The story that was told left a feeling of uncertainty of destination, and the on-going journey people take to find joy in their life. With vibrant images contrasted with the natural decaying of nature, there was a sense of growth and the non-stopping of time which really moved me throughout the film.

Overall I’d like to say well done to all directors, including Cameron King for his film Low Note too, it was obvious everyone involved had put a lot of hard work in, and the outcome was pretty sensational!