For Those In Peril
When five men are lost at sea in a fishing accident, all eyes in the bleak Aberdeenshire village turn to Aaron, the only survivor. He has lost his beloved older brother; other villagers have also lost brothers, sons and husbands, and to them Aaron is a Jonah.
Slipping in and out of reality, and unable to recall the details of the traumatic event, Aaron barely registers the curses thrown at him in the street, or the depth of his mother’s mourning. The focus of the superstitious villagers’ anger, Aaron is just as much in need of a scapegoat. And so, at the centre of his personal vortex of grief a sea monster emerges – a Moby Dick from whom he imagines he can rescue the men lost overboard. When the sea returns his brother’s yellow slicker to the shore, there’s no turning back – Aaron (a magnetic performance from the beautiful George MacKay) is compelled to play out the folk tale he believes will return peace and happiness to the village.
… vivid folk tale, visceral mood piece and documentary realism …
FOR THOSE IN PERIL is Paul Wright’s first feature: like many successful filmmakers, he has built a solid reputation on a series of award winning shorts. PERIL charts the downward spiral of a young man’s psyche, winding together vivid folk tale, visceral mood piece and documentary realism with seemingly effortless skill. Wright uses multiple formats and techniques, and some extremely inventive sound design and startling imagery; he’s a sure-footed risk-taker who quickly and easily establishes a mutual trust with the viewer. Look at some of the other films produced by Warp Films and you’ll get an idea of what to expect: DEAD MAN’S SHOES and KILL LIST were celebrated as cinematic landmarks from new and exciting auteurs; TYRANNOSAUR saw actor Paddy Considine make a powerful and idiosyncratic directorial debut.
From a new, young director who is so technically deft, and such an assured and passionate storyteller, one might reasonably expect undercurrents of vanity, obnoxiousness and self-indulgence. However, Paul Wright doesn’t exhibit any such weakness. He honours his characters and his story with great respect and restraint, allowing different layers to develop and distort steadily and organically. Clever and original twists of editing and composition always add strength to the meaning of a scene, never jarring or intruding. The sound design was also a painstaking labour of love. The intimate fricative and susurration of Aaron’s inner dialogue meld with the inexorable hiss of the sea. Harsh jumpcuts mark the hiccuping of the young man’s grip on reality, scored with distorted chants and paracusia; and when the ghastly bark of the Leviathan rings out it’s the definitive scare chord.
Michael “Spaced” Smiley’s best and most sinister performance to date …
PERIL features what is probably Michael “Spaced” Smiley’s best and most sinister performance to date: Wright not only has a fluent and natural understanding of the language of cinema, but knows how to play to his performers’ strengths. Kate Dickie contributes boundless depth as Aaron’s grieving mother, who is also the narrator of the folk tale. Aaron’s brother Billy (Conor McCarron) appears in home video flashbacks, a cinematic conceit which is so often used in an underhanded and apocryphal way to serve the plot; but used here, the footage allows us to understand Billy as a character in his own right, and to further understand the complex relationship between the two brothers. FOR THOSE IN PERIL offers an epically intense experience, a clever and allegorical portrait of grief which cannot but culminate in Nietszchean tragedy: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster… for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
FOR THOSE IN PERIL screens on the 21st September at 15.30. Cambridge Film Festival hopes to welcome director Paul Wright to the screening for Q&A. Book tickets here.
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