Clio Barnard mixes documentary and theatre in 'The Arbor'

0

Comments

Add +

Dave Calhoun sees this first-time British director as a major new talent

It doesn’t take long for the unease to set in while watching Clio Barnard’s extraordinary ‘The Arbor’. Barnard’s film returns us to the Buttershaw Estate in Bradford, where the teen playwright Andrea Dunbar wrote ‘The Arbor’ in the late 1970s and later set ‘Rita, Sue and Bob Too’. Barnard’s film is partly about Dunbar, partly about her legacy and partly about the Buttershaw Estate itself. ‘I grew up near Bradford and knew the place through “Rita, Sue and Bob Too”,’ says Barnard. ‘I have a real affection for the film in a funny way. It reminds me of my youth.’

But it’s not the story of ‘The Arbor’ which makes us uneasy. It’s how Barnard tells it. Her film looks like a documentary: Dunbar’s relatives and friends talk to us from authentic-looking kitchens and living rooms. Yet we soon realise these are actors on location, lip-synching to recordings of the people they’re playing. Also, Barnard’s ‘documentary’ set-ups are not that at all. Some look real, but others are more poetic. One of Dunbar’s daughters recalls the time she and her sister set fire to their bedroom: we see an actress standing, as an adult, in a bedroom with a fire raging behind her. We also see interviews with Dunbar in the early 1980s and witness scenes from the ‘The Arbor’ being re-enacted today on Brafferton Arbor, the bit of the estate where Dunbar lived and set her play.

Fact rubs up against fiction and vice versa. It’s compelling and stimulating, keeping you on your feet but never distancing you from the story at its heart: the difficult life of Dunbar’s daughter Lorraine, who is now 29, the age that her mother died, collapsing in a pub one day in 1990 from a brain haemorrhage.

For Barnard, all this trickery and mixing of styles and approaches is about making clear the limits of reconstruction and recollection. Versions of her technique are common in theatre, but she feels it has a different effect here. ‘I was interested in the aspiration to be authentic,’ she says. ‘Also I’m interested in how if you use a verbatim approach in theatre, it’s documentary, but in film it draws attention to the fact it’s a construct.’

Barnard is an artist and filmmaker whose short films have been shown in galleries and at festivals. This is her first feature. She also teaches film studies at the University of Kent, which throws light on the rigour of ‘The Arbor’. She cites British director Penny Woolcock and American documentarist Errol Morris as inspirations. ‘Especially what he said about direct cinema and its failings in terms of its claims of truth. You can’t pretend the camera’s not there.’



Read our review of 'The Arbor'

Author: Dave Calhoun



Users say

0 comments


Top Stories

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Meet the dream team: a preview of ‘Les Misérables’

Director Tom Hooper and his cast tell us how they turned the super-musical into movie blockbuster.

Oscar predictions

Oscar predictions

The Time Out film team weighs in on the nominees for the 2013 Academy Awards

January film highlights 2013

January film highlights 2013

Get ready for the big guns… Spielberg, Tarantino and Bigelow

October film highlights

October film highlights

Daniel Craig’s 007 comeback, a genius indie romcom and all the mysteries behind ‘The Shining’ unravelled.

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The Time Out film debate 2012 highlights

The results of our study on the state of films and filmgoing in 2012.

Read 'Time Out film debate 2012 highlights'

Martin Freeman interview

Martin Freeman interview

'The Hobbit' actor tells us why he wouldn't have a pint with Bilbo Baggins.

Sam Mendes interview

Sam Mendes interview

Dave Calhoun speaks to the director of 'Skyfall' about the latest film in the Bond franchise.

Ang Lee interview

Ang Lee interview

The genre-hopping director tells us how he invented a new genre with 'Life of Pi'

Michael Haneke interview

Michael Haneke interview

The twice Palme d'Or-winning director discusses 'Amour'.

Read our interview with Michael Haneke

Thomas Vinterberg interview

Thomas Vinterberg interview

The Danish director talks about his powerful new drama 'The Hunt'.

Read our interview with Thomas Vinterberg'

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Ten things the 'Twilight' movies did for us

Time Out looks back at the impact of the 'Twilight' saga.

Discover what 'Twilight' has done for us

On the set of 'Sightseers'

On the set of 'Sightseers'

Time Out heads to the Lake District to visit director Ben Wheatley on set.

Read about our visit to the 'Sightseers' set

Tim Burton interview

Tim Burton interview

The director talks about 'Frankenweenie', which he describes as 'the ultimate memory piece'.

Read our interview with Tim burton

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

The top ten Christmas films of 2012

Our pick of the best films showing over the festive period.

Read 'The top ten Christmas films of 2012'

What's your film guilty pleasure?

What's your film guilty pleasure?

Mean Girls? Dirty Dancing? Tell us your favourite film guilty pleasure.

Read 'Film guilty pleasures'

When teen stars turn serious

When teen stars turn serious

Ten young actors come of age on the silver screen.

Read 'When teen stars turn serious'

50 years of James Bond

50 years of James Bond

From Connery to Craig, we revisit all 22 Bond films.

Read '50 years of James Bond'

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

Paul Thomas Anderson interview

The director talks Scientology and working with Joaquin Phoenix.

Read the interview

Hilarious horror films

Hilarious horror films


Ten funny horror movies which went spectacularly off the rails.

Read 'Hilarious horror films'

Martin McDonagh interview

Martin McDonagh interview

The director talks psychopaths and theatre – 'my least favourite artform'.

Read the interview

Autumn horror films

Autumn horror films

We round-up the five best horror movies of Autumn 2012.

Read about this Autumn's best horror movies

On the set of Skyfall

On the set of Skyfall

Time Out visits Istanbul to see the latest Bond movie being made.

Read 'On the set of Skyfall'

Bond: then and now

Bond: then and now

Does Skyfall refresh or rehash the James Bond franchise?

Sally Potter interview

Sally Potter interview

The British director explains why 'Ginger and Rosa' is her most mainstream film yet.

Daniel Craig interview

Daniel Craig interview

'I’m almost as in demand as Brad Pitt’