Tuesday, 28 May 2013

The Comedian - Tom Shkolnik interview and review


Premiere Scene’s Nicola Johnston had the opportunity to put some questions to director Tom Shkolnik for his film The Comedian.

Review Nicola Johnston

As I sat down to watch The Comedian I really did not know what to expect, I had heard bits and bobs about the film and the process in which it was made, as I know a few of the actors in it.

I don’t like to tell people about the story when I write reviews, as I feel it spoils the experience of making up your own mind, on wither you like a film or not. I also want to encourage people to see the film in the cinema, up on the big screen where they belong. The film is much more than just a story about a guy trying to make it as a Stand Up Comedian. It has a strong strong social statement, about a lost generation of 30 something’s, who appear to be utterly lost, lonely, making just enough money to get by, feeling that they don’t belong to anyone or anything, as they struggle through the daily grind, just managing to pay the rent and have the odd night out, a scenario that must ring true in a lot of people. The backdrop is the city; in this case London, but this story could ring true in any big city anywhere in the world. I did have more than one moment when I heard that voice inside my head saying, “well that’s just my life isn’t it!” It is a sad and often uncomfortable self-realisation, what people will actually put up with in order to chase the dream of something better for themselves.

This is Tom Shkolnik’s debut feature and its no surprise that he was nominated for Best British Newcomer at BFI’s London Film Festival 2012. His film came with its own set of rules, which had to be followed by the actors and the crew; these rules echo the spirit of Dogme 95. Tom’s rules included only using natural light, just one take per scene and improvising without a script, all actors should use their own names, these are just a few of the rules that the ensemble had to follow. Tom trained at Drama Centre London, an incredible school with a rich history of its own, he graduated in 2002 and while training at Drama Centre he made two short films. He was however feeling rather miserable about life and also a little disillusioned by the industry and London, then one morning he woke up with an idea and all good things in life start with a thought or an idea don’t they? He decided that he wanted to make a feature film that was stripped down to the bare essentials and I believe he has managed to pull this off with a detailed intelligent style and with such flare.

The Comedian is a bold, brave, strong, thought provoking film, a snapshot of big city life. London becomes a character itself layered with many different tones, it supports and then it rejects its inhabitants. It casts many different colours throughout the film and looks stunning. The focus on the monotony of the day job, feeling invisible and misunderstood, it grabs and tackles its audience to enter its intense emotions of loneliness, frustration and hopelessness, as you follow the characters on there quests for a better life and a chance of living the dream.

The way of filming must have challenged its cast and crew members, to be stripped right back is of course terrifying but also exhilarating at the same time. The overall outcome and result is fresh and raw, its utterly truthful, convincingly painful, sharp and intense and then it is exhilarating, funny and witty with such a warmth and charm that sings along side you right up until the credits roll. The film takes you on a journey through a city, though its characters. It does have sections that don’t always work and you really feel it when it loses its way but then you could argue that life is just like that, it does not always run smooth and it sometimes goes horribly wrong and if you manage to keep the faith and hope long enough to get through, most of the time there is something better just around the corner. I did wonder how much of the making of this film was driven by the actors and it strongly feels like their film, not taking anything away from Tom’s huge achement as director but the process of building a character for 3 months, allows for such detail and depth and also the rules in which the film was made, really lends itself to improvisation and trust between the actors. There is wonderful cameo parts and I must congratulate the Director Of Photography, Benjamin Kracun, as the film has an documentary feel and is beautifully shot, especially the scene on the bus and the scene in the cab, which was my favourite scene in the film and it could have been a wonderful short in its own right. The sound scape is also wonderful and the Editor Pierre Haberer deserves an award, as his task can’t have been an easy one. The film is carried by strong, touching and detailed performances by Edward Hogg, Elisa Lasowski and Nathan Stewart-Jarrett.

Making this film must have been a huge challenge for everyone involved and not an easy ride but its one that certainly pays off, I cant wait to see what Tom Shkolnik does next as I’m sure he has a bright future ahead, as does his amazing cast and crew and now its over to you to go and see this film in the cinema and support Independent filmmaking and make up your own mind.

 THE COMEDIAN is released in cinemas Friday 31st May 2013

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