A Shape of Error
USA, 2011, 65 Minute Running Time
Additional Countries: Italy
Genre/Subjects: Avant Garde/Experimental, Biographical, Drama
Program: Contemporary World Cinema
What if we could witness the everyday lives of historical figures from a time long before photography could capture them—and understand them in the context of the intellectual movements of their time?
Experimental filmmaker Abigail Child takes this as her starting point in exploring 19th-century Romanticism through the life of author Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. Child has created a kind of home movie of Shelley’s life with her poet husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley. This is not your grandmother’s costume drama but an avant-garde visual poetry of ordinary moments, juxtaposed against brief capsules about the more dangerous ideologies of the day. The two may beam at the camera in the first flush of love, while Mary explains in voice-over narration that they have just fled her possessive father and Percy’s first wife. But all of their kisses and wanderings, their meetings and partings carry the self-conscious quality of being watched as they risk unconventionality. An occasional excerpt from Shelley’s poetry gives the film an ethereal feel. And always, all around them are lush surroundings, often portrayed in mirror images that double the beauty.
Child won the Stan Brakhage Vision Award at the Starz Denver Film Festival in 2011. A Shape of Error was filmed in 2009 and 2010 while Child was a fellow at the American Academy in Rome, where she used the spectacular settings of the Italian landscape. Her films are in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, among others.
- VAL MOSES
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DIRECTOR: Abigail Child
Producer: Abigail Child
Editor: Abigail Child, Yael Bitton, Mary Patierno
Screenwriter: Abigail Child
Cinematographer: Abigail Child
Principal Cast: Eileen Ryan, Nick Wilding, Aurlia d'Antonia, Richard Wittman
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