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Aug 25, 2010

Lucia – the Barbican: Don Boyd Retrospective

by Abi Weaver

The Don Boyd retrospective that forms part of this year’s festival kicked off tonight with1998’s Lucia. This was preceded with a talk from Patrick Hazard on the importance of Don Boyd’s work, before Boyd himself took the microphone. He explained the reasons for his focussing this dramatic piece on Donizetti’s opera Lucia di Lammermoor. It began when Boyd was a young boy, with a passion for the original historical novel The Bride of Lammermoor by Sir Walter Scott, whom was regarded as a bit of a celebrity, and was a character of particular interest to Boyd. The opera gave him a wonderful opportunity he said: it is “drenching with beautiful music”, which, with the chance to play with beautiful costumes and scenery, is an “irresistible opportunity” for the filmmaker.

Boyd also commented on the two main importances of this work. Firstly technically: the film was made on digibeta, which is now being phased out by the use of digital recorders, and then transferred to 35mm, and was the first film to be transferred in this way. He described the process of now running the film from 35mm as “a bit dodgy really”, especially seeing as there is no negative should the film break, but the effect of the interesting lighting techniques used with this film made you forget this fact pretty quickly. The second importance was more personal: Boyd’s own daughter Angela plays the lead female Kate/Lucia in the film, and agreeing to work with her father was a difficult choice. A student at the Guildhall, she had won prizes for her Soprano, and was unsure how criticisms of nepotism could affect her budding career. Nevertheless she agreed, and her performance is stunning, making this film all the more poignant and beloved of Boyd himself.

He began our viewing with an interesting coincidence: Napoli Napoli Napoli was the opening film of the LIDF last week, and the first ever performance of Lucia di Lammermoor was at the San Carlo Opera House in Napoli in 1835.A man interested in the details, he certainly found this very charming.

Lucia is, in Boyd’s own words, “not a documentary in any sense of the word”, which obviously makes it an interesting choice for a documentary festival! Lucia was both loved and hated on its release, and is one of Boyd’s lesser-known pieces so it is a wonderful chance to have it screened in such a venue as the Barbican, the depthy cinema of which adds to the grandiose and charged opening of the film, with its saturated colourscheme – it looks as those it was filmed on Mars at times. The story echoes the opera itself, with the cast of characters in an operatic troupe performing the opera intertwining with the lives of its characters, to devastating effect at the end, where the stories cannot be told apart. It really is a showcase for the music, along with the impressive stylised photography. Overall, it’s an example of Boyd’s uncompromising approach to film that has made him such a successful filmmaker.

His retrospective continues tomorrow at The Horse Hospital.

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Posted in: Blog, Comment, Highlights, LIDF events

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