Gillian Wearing's study of acting blurs the line between fiction and reality
An intriguing debut feature from Young British Artist-turned director Gillian Wearing, which in a manner reminiscent of Clio Barnard’s The Arbor skilfully blurs the boundaries between documentary and fiction filmmaking. Having responded to press advertisements, seven volunteers attend a series of Method-acting workshops run by tutor Sam Rumbelow. Following various relaxation and memory recovery exercises, they are then encouraged to draw on personal experiences to create fictional alter egos. In turn these characters become the subjects of filmed micro dramas which in Brechtian flourishes we see being photographed by Wearing’s crew. Thus a daughter with a painful relationship to her father acts out a scene as Cordelia from King Lear, whilst a middle-aged woman who finds it difficult to accept love, constructs a Brief Encounter-style 1940s courtship.
Self Made has been accused in some quarters of exploiting the vulnerability of its non-professional actors, yet to this reviewer such criticisms seem unfounded. Emotionally affecting for both participants and viewers alike, this is a film which reveals how the very process of acting can – sometimes productively and sometimes dangerously – open up unexplored aspects of our own psyches.
Filmhouse, Edinburgh on Fri 21, Tue 25 & Thu 27 Oct.