Winter Sparks Screenings

Running alongside a new exhibition, FACT have programmed a quartet of electrifying films to inspire…

If you’ve popped into FACT lately, you’re probably aware of new exhibition Winter Sparks (read our review), inspired by electricity and our ongoing fascination with that very singular force of nature. As has regularly happened with previous exhibitions at Liverpool’s centre for new media, a season of films have been programmed to compliment the main event.

The screenings, a “selection of films exploring the magical qualities of science”, begin tomorrow with Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, introduced by Dr Andy Newsam, Professor of Astronomy Education and Engagement at the Astrophysics Research Institute of Liverpool John Moores University. Often – slightly misleadingly – described as ‘a beautiful movie about the end of the world’, Melancholia (though Earth’s potential doom is always around the foreground) has as much to do with relationships and existentialism as it does the apocalypse.

Much of the drama centres on the interplay between sisters Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the former stealing the opening scenes with ugly, brattish behaviour at her own wedding reception. Indeed, her histrionics are so appalling that genre expectations of the movie quickly shift from sci-fi to creepy melodrama – with von Trier at the helm, what else were we to expect? From here-on-in one can’t help but be gripped by Dunst’s performance (for which she won the Best Actress Award at Cannes), as she dominates the screen and those around her.

“It’s a beautiful meditation on the things that matter in life”

But it’s not a one-trick movie: as the wandering planet Melancholia hoves into view, power dynamics and expectations shift; the formerly very together Claire threatening to fall apart at the seams, all the while her cock-sure husband John (played by Kiefer Sutherland) assures her things will be fine. And Justine? Well, to reveal much more would be to give games away, but suffice to say it’s a beautiful meditation on the things that matter in life and, von Trier (in spite of his disposition to play with his audience as a cat does with a mouse) has produced a movie fit to leave cinema-goers in a state of awe.

How to follow that? Probably the only way you can, with a back to basics meditation on the role electricity has played on creative minds. Introductions this time will come from Dr Sally Sheard, Senior Lecturer in History of Medicine at the University of Liverpool, to provide an insight into British medicine at the time Mary Shelley wrote her most famous work Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. A cautionary tale about the dangers of man’s playing God and fears for the future, how few of our concerns had changed more than 100 years later with James Whale’s adaptation? Starring Boris Karloff as the monster, it remains the benchmark for Frankenstein on the big screen (23rd January).

Then you wonder have we peaked too soon with those first two screenings, for up next is AI: Artificial Intelligence (6th February). Appropriately released in 2001, perhaps the most interesting thing about this Steven Spielberg misfire is that pre-production of the movie began decades earlier in the hands of Stanley Kubrick. In the late 90s, the friends were working on the project together until Kubrick passed away before the turn of the millennium.

Spielberg soldiered on alone – many would argue that he shouldn’t have, the result being a sad mash-up of hokum and sentimentalism. But JMU’s Principle Lecturer at the Department of Information, Media and Computer Entertainment, Dr David England should at least give us an idea of when the kind of technology explored in the movie might rear its head.

The final part of the programme comes in the form of Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige (13th February), a tale of ever-escalating rivalry between magicians played by Hugh Jackman and Nolan favourite Christian Bale. If not quite the pinnacle of the director’s oeuvre, The Prestige is entertaining nonetheless, and its inclusion was guaranteed, with that man Nikola Tesla (played by David Bowie) popping up to the aid Hugh Jackman’s Angier. Dispensing with the academic introduction for this one, the screening is accompanied by a performance from magician David Alnwick.

Winter Sparks screenings begin with Melancholia Wednesday the 9th 6.15pm @ FACT 

Posted on 08/01/2013 by thedoublenegative