Cillian Murphy stars in immersive film installation at MIF
If there is one common thread that connects the eclectic works that have appeared at the Manchester International Festival over the past 14 years, it is the desire to push the boundaries of creation, the artists, designers and musicians commissioned by the festival being regularly invited to go out. of their comfort zones and create new styles of work.
This blurring of boundaries can be seen at this year’s MIF – which opened yesterday – in the new exhibition Poet Slash Artist at Home, where Lemn Sissay and Hans Ulrich-Obrist staged an exhibition of works by visual artists who are poets too, but is even more evident in the film installation All of this Unreal Time, which stars Cillian Murphy.
The project brings together a collection of stellar creators from different fields: it is written by Max Porter, perhaps best known for his novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers, directed by acclaimed music video director Aiofe McArdle, and includes music Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner and Jon Hopkins.
The full experience only has a fleeting duration at the festival, July 1-4, although the film is also available on the MIF website. If you can, it’s worth seeing the set, which takes place in the cavernous hall of Manchester Central, and makes for an immersive and absorbing experience, mixing film, music and a light show to create something akin to a theatrical event.
At the center is Murphy’s performance. We find him in the midst of poetic angst as he wanders the empty city streets before eventually moving to a more rural setting, albeit a vast array of electric masts – which play a central role in the early ones. scenes of the experience – be always present.
This vision of Murphy purposefully walking, somewhat weathered and worn out, will be familiar to fans of his work and is reminiscent of scenes from 21 Days Later at Peaky Blinders. Murphy can certainly walk down a street with intention and that familiarity actually works in the service of the plot – as there is – of the film, which sees him recite a series of apologies and regrets.
We never know exactly what he’s sorry about, the narrative escaping everything from selfish behavior in relationships and male privilege to consumerism and the destruction of the planet. His words are anguished at times – “I find myself, in the middle of my life, in a dark wood, and now I am here, in the forest of my spirit, and every tree is a disgrace, every living being is a rebuke” is openness – but elsewhere seem to come from a sense of obligation.
This ambiguity is the power of the work – allowing the viewer to fill the space with their own anxieties, regrets and concerns. It might be impossible to go see a piece of art or a movie for a while without thinking about the pandemic, but it still seems to be present here, with Murphy appearing to be exposing some of the thoughts and feelings we’ve all considered. in the past 18 months.
All this unreal time is an example of the best of MIF, where creative minds from different fields are encouraged to come together to create a poignant and thoughtful new work. “It was easy to draw inspiration from Cillian’s reach and power as an actor and the poetry of Max’s words,” McArdle says of his work on the project. “The rainy, empty and closed streets have become living webs. Working with all of these artists has been one of the purest collaborative trips I’ve been on.
All of This Unreal Time airs in Manchester Central July 1-4, and on demand on the Manchester International Festival website through July 18; mif.co.uk