Thursday at midnight, I attended a screening of Lord Byron. I was supposed to go with Dan, but he opted out in order to see Homework and I didn’t blame him because going into the film, I had absolutely no idea what it was about. The official synopsis is pretty vague and gives you the impression that it doesn’t do the heart of the film justice. Something seems off because the film is in the NEXT category of Sundance, which is a section for films made with minimalist budgets, yet the synopsis seems makes the plot sound like a traditional big budget film. What I did know was that the film was shot in south Louisiana, aka Acadiana, aka where I’m from, by a filmmaker from Lafayette, LA. Unbeknownst to me the producer was also from Lafayette and we actually have several mutual friends.
My initial reaction was chaotic; I both loved the film and doubted my own intuition, citing my Louisiana bias as the reason I enjoyed movie. Now, having had several days to ruminate on the film, I have finally come to a firm opinion on it.
I think it was great. I think it had major flaws. I think it walked a serious line of feature film and art picture.
I’ve taken a surprising number of art classes at Elon considering I never had much of an opportunity to take art in high school, I was too hyperfocused on Theatre. Taking a few video art classes at Elon has ignited in me a serious interest in the fine line between film and art. When comparing Hollywood blockbusters to video installments the gap can seem massive and daunting, but smaller indie films often straddle the distinction. Lord Byron doesn’t cross the boundary as much as The Nine Muses, which I saw Wednesday, but it does so in a much more successful way. With The Nine Muses, I was irritated that the distinction wasn’t made. In fact, I thought it was strictly video art, not a feature film. There were no characters or narratives, simply a loose structure based in literature and myth. It’s like a poem that tells a story versus a conceptual poem.
Lord Byron was, instead, a feature film with art tendencies: a loose plot, nontraditional perspective, nontraditional/linear editing, etc. However, it also had several characters who made emotional journeys, intracharacter conflict, a linear/logical progression of time, first-person narrative, etc. Its art house moments were at times a success, while on several occasions complete awkward failures, leaving the audience counting the moments down to when the story would progress from bizarre editing. It is for these moments that I find serious fallibility in Lord Byron.
Quite often, I find myself unable to fault art house films for attempting a new style of storytelling, editing, or cinematography as long as they commit to the style. Despite being miserable while watching The Nine Muses, at its conclusion I truly appreciated the film and enjoyed watching it overall. This however, for some reason, does not unanimously apply to narrative features that employ avant-guard techniques. I find that because they are traditional features with nontraditional style, the nontraditional elements of their storytelling should be tight, effective, and necessary. It’s a double standard I know, but a useful one. Lord Byron would have benefited greatly from a third unbiased pair of eyes to weigh in on its unique scenes of multilayered opacity and undefinable metaphors. A third party would have been able to trim the repetitive nature of the film and to weed out scenes that, despite great acting, were ineffective in conveying their emotional message or association.
The movie would benefit greatly from a serious recut that eliminates long lulls and awkward ineffective scenes that left the audience to infer the scene’s meaning and parts of the story.
This is all I can offer you for now folks as I am about to pass out ontop of my laptap, but I have many more comments and theories about Lord Byron and others so I’ll b e back