Bodkin Ras


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Bodkin Ras
"The bright light of this fictional thing illuminates those real lives scattered around the edges of the tale."

Up on the Moray coast, to the north of Inverness, there's a small town called Forres, listed in many tourist guides due to various things that happened in its past but with not a great deal going on today. It's a place young people drift away from and a place that doesn't see many newcomers. Lily (Lily Szramko) has been there for some time, a yellow haired young woman in a sea of old men, and she's desperate to return to London. More recent newcomer Bodkin (Sohrab Bayat) is the opposite, curiously keen to blend in - not just a foreigner who wants to be accepted by the locals, but a man who seems to want to surrender his identity entirely.

Where is Bodkin from? A few people ask; no-one gets a clear answer. He's brown skinned and so obviously pained that there's an unspoken assumption he's escaped from some bloody war, perhaps losing those he loved in the process. The truth is more complicated. But this is a town where a lot of men have painful histories, and no-one pries. In this hybrid film, the difference is that Bodkin is fictional and the men he meets are real. His story is narrated in a roundabout way like one of those other historic tales. There is an assumption that the viewer will have heard of him. A thing happened once, in this town. It might make outsiders care. The bright light of this fictional thing illuminates those real lives scattered around the edges of the tale.

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Eddie is a fence builder. He has lost his two sons. The weight of his pain, which he drowns in a succession of bottles, might be part of what draws him to the outsider. What starts as convenience - Bodkin has just lost his job and Eddie needs a new assistant - grows into something more familial. Meanwhile, Bodkin forms a relationship with Lily, but we see her more than we hear from her, and even then not much. In this tale of tortured masculinity, she becomes little more than an object, Szramko's differently toned performance forcing us to recognise her humanity only in short bursts.

Like many an old highland tale, this one is stained, from the outset, with a sense of destiny, of inescapable doom. A man dances in the street, singing an old song. Clouds glower ominously overhead. All the locals are playing themselves and their completely unstylised performances, together with the use of a handheld camera that seems to feel every bump in the road, every hidden hollow in the fields, give the film a rawness and immediacy that contrasts interestingly with the positioning of the narrative in the past. The impression given is of a place where nothing changes, where men exist in a narrow space between horizons, always aware of their mortality. Attempting to lose himself here, Bodkin is rushing towards himself. Only Lily maintains the illusion of free will.

Reviewed on: 09 Feb 2017
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Bodkin Ras packshot
The people in Forres don't work. Between nine and five they dissolve into the pubs, where the light shines as a warm glow in their midst. Then the stranger Bodkin arrives into town. He has come to this remote corner of Europe to hide and lay low.

Director: Kaweh Modiri

Writer: Kaweh Modiri

Starring: Sohrab Bayat, Eddie Paton, Lily Szramko

Year: 2016

Runtime: 79 minutes

Country: Netherlands, UK


Glasgow 2017

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