Eye For Film >> Movies >> Songs For My Mother (2009) Film Review
Songs For My Mother
Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson
Kubrick casts a long shadow. This is a piece that is part of an installation created by twins, a fictionalised tale based on the wardrobe photographs he created for a project that was never made. Layered onto this is a film that seems to seek to recall his vision, his fondness for corridors, the nature of his gaze, and past that the fact that a film about a film never made, in the style of the director who never made it, echoes aspects of his work; the director as director in Full Metal Jacket, "keep moving, keep moving".
There are two women, the wardrobe mistress and the actress. As costumes are fitted in an echoing building, a stately interior of wood and marble, clocks in lobbies, staircases giving way to interstitial foyers, landings, an uncertain geography. Old though, high windows, shadows, time and distance.
The women are Polish, Bosnian, their stories unfolding slowly. From photographs inspired it harks to them, scenes exchanged for others like the slow turning of pages, but in this distance there is an intimacy. Hands dart, dash, smooth, fold, the camera watches. We see a wall through a window. We see a mother and a daughter. It has the kind of absolute focus it is easy to associate with Kubrick, but how much of that is there and how much of it is the mind seeking to see cannot be known.
Divorced of context, this is a touching little film, a moment of creation, recollection. As an homage, a piece of Kubrickania it becomes something else, something arch. Women at the forefront to start with, no Alex, no Barry, no Joker, instead the artificiality of costume, the sense of the real and the realistic, the business of self and immigration. Questions from within and without the text abound.
It's co-written and co-directed by Louise and Jane Wilson, twins whose collaborative works have covered a variety of topics. They have filmed before, for 1995's Normapaths, and this work forms part of their current exhibition (7 Aug - 26 Sept) at Edinburgh's Talbot Rice Gallery, Unfolding The Aryan Papers. The title refers to an unfilmed Kubrick project, and his interactions with actress Johanna ter Steege.
The cast is small. On stage this would probably be a two-hander. The four actresses are all good: as The Wardrobe Mistress Fiona O'Shaughnessy is all fussing and hands, as The Actress Teresza Srbova is at once remote and fragile. She's perhaps the most notable cast member, having made appearances in Goal! III and Inkheart, and being both on screen and soundtrack for Cronenburg's Eastern Promises, she is the closest to stardom. For ter Steege The Aryan Papers was to be a breakthrough role, but it did not come, and there is the same sense of poise upon a threshold in her casting. In the recollections Kate Cook, seen elsewhere in the Cinema Extreme programme, is solid, Corinne Furmann too.
In an installation there would be the chance to watch this again. To consider it in context. To hasten back to the bookshelf to grab The Archives and look for correlation. As a film it certainly intrigues, but there's a sense of something missing. An apt absence perhaps, but still frustrating. At times it is hard to tell if what is being read is actually there, or projected not by the mechanics of cinema but by the mind. That question, in and of itself, is haunting, and so, too, is this piece.Reviewed on: 11 Aug 2009