At the same time as his exhibition of paintings over at Riflemaker, Stuart Pearson Wright is also showing a new film work just a few minutes walk away, downstairs at 1 Berwick Street, Soho. The film – entitled Maze – is not your usual artist’s video piece – it co-stars Keira Knightley for a start – and it’s really rather captivating.
Maze is a two-screen work that sees the artist and Keira Knightley dressed up in full Elizabethan court regalia trying to find their way through an increasingly impenetrable Longleat maze and into each other’s arms. The film begins in bright sunlight, the hedgerows lushly green as Constance (Knightley) and Edmund (Pearson Wright) make their way with coy enthusiasm through the maze and, so they imagine, towards each other.
At this stage all is rosy, but there’s an early sign of what is to come. Turning a corner too tightly, Knightley gets her elaborate hair tangled up in branches and leaves. In painfully extricating herself she leaves behind one of the pearls that had adorned her head. It contrasts nicely with another moment when a foppish Pearson Wright brushes a leaf disdainfully from his velvet shoulder. From here things go down hill rapidly as it becomes increasingly apparent that the two aren’t going to find each other.
As night descends, their cries and aimless running become all the more futile. Two moments encapsulate the sense of panic and frustration. In one, they miss each other by seconds – the unfortunate timing emphasised by the manner in which Knightley and Pearson Wright swap screens. Later the two are on opposite sides of the same hedge but their hysterical attempts to climb over and through the hedge come ultimately to naught.
Beautifully shot by acclaimed cinematographer Rob Hardy, Maze is an intense, moving and grippingly claustrophobic piece. But, as with the rest of Stuart Pearson Wright’s work, it’s also something other than this. It’s ridiculous. The speed at which the two characters descend into outright panic, the stilted dialogue (all “wherefore art thou” and “forsooth nuncle, prithee hast though besmirched my coxcomb”), even the elaborate (and beautiful) costumes – all contribute to the sense that this is a depiction not of a tragedy but of Tragedy, as depicted by Actors, acting.
To this end Keira Knightley is perfect. Aside from the fact that at several moments she resembles the hilarious Queenie from Blackadder II, what I like best about her performance is that she is not so much playing Constance as she is playing “the Keira Knightley period drama” persona. She runs the full gamut of expressions, from demure smile to pouting petulance, shrieking hysteria and – in a neat final inversion of the period’s gender stereotypes – an admirable strength of character. It is she who stands and walks away whilst Edmund is crushed by disappointment and loneliness. Maze is beautiful and compelling, but in Pearson Wright’s hands, it’s also funny, and all the more interesting because of it.
Maze is at 1 Berwick Street until 9th June 2010.
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 6th, 2010 at 11:43 am and is filed under Maze, Projects. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.