FEATURE: The Sycamore Gap – Bunch Of Fives | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Set in 1841, in the Victorian era of stifled and prudish sexuality, The Sycamore Gap is a film which tells the story of Mina, a woman of colour working as a maid in a wealthy household. She enters a romantic affair with the lady of the house, Clara. The affair is under constant threat of discovery by Clara’s husband, James, whose vicious demeanour makes both women fearful. Mina has a difficult decision to make in order to survive in a world that favours everything she is not. Mina, eventually decides, what is best for her, is to leave the situation entirely, leaving Clara alone to deal with the consequences.

The central themes of the film are definitely control and independence. You can’t have one without the other, because to experience independence, you must have first have experienced some form of control and to experience control, you will desire independence from that control. This is primarily what the film focuses on. Looking further than that, how does this theme play into character dynamics and also different groups of people. There is definitely a chain of control between each of the characters. James has control over his wife, Clara and also the maid, Mina. But in some ways, Mina also has control over both of them, she is infatuated by Clara and is swept up in an unrealistic romance. But she has the power of freedom in some ways because she is able to just leave the situation where as Clara and James are bound by not only marriage but also by society’s expectations of them and what their roles are in society.

The Sycamore Gap’s Bunch Of Fives is all about its top five influences.

Person: Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
In a time of oppression, she was a political activist, philanthropist and fashion icon. But behind the activism, money and clothes, she was an extremely complex woman. Her portrayal in the 2008 hit presented an extremely well rounded and emotional character. This is something I wanted to bring to my characters, both male and female. I think Clara’s character (the lady of the house) was very much inspired by this character, she is gutsy and is driven by her desire but in a way that is realistic for the time. In the same way that Georgiana was challenged and faced with difficult decisions, Clara is to, a woman faced with decisions that no one today would have to face.

Novel: Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace
Alias Grace was another great influence for us. This story is all about independence and breaking free of a perception that others hold on you, which is something that strongly comes across when working historically in any sense, society has always had a huge power and influence over people and dictating the way people perceive groups of people. On a smaller scale, this text discusses the importance of coming to your own conclusion about heresy.

Film: Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights
Andrea Arnold’s/Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights has hugely inspired me. Not just with this film but also in a lot of my work. The film and book in tandem, have embedded the themes of class and race into the film The Sycamore Gap. The original text centres around a young gypsy boy who is dictated in life by his Romani descent. People treat him terribly and inhumanely because of his race, and that’s something that translates strongly into the film I want to make. Mina’s character is treat by James in a way that is completely unfair and even to some extent, Clara also doesn’t treat her with the respect she deserves because she is selfish in asking Mina to part take in the affair. In the same vein, Andrea Arnold’s interpretation of Wuthering Heights explores the same themes and subtext but by updating the political relevance and make Heathcliff’s character a black man, therefore staying true to the themes of the book but also making it palatable and understandable to a modern audience. This is something I have tried to do in our film. In some places in the world and some small nooks and crannies here in England, many people see not only interracial relationships but also same sex relationships as wrong, and we want to give these minorities a voice and a place for representation.

Character: Doctor Who’s Martha Jones
The story first started to get written when re watching some older episodes of Doctor Who. Martha Jones’ character was a huge inspiration to us and we immediately were inspired. We knew from the very beginning we wanted our main character to be brave and curious, and these are two qualities that Martha embodies.

Art: John Everett Millais’ Ophelia 
One of the most beautiful and influential painting ever made. Ophelia was an inspiration to us because of the idea of floating, as the woman floats in the river, collecting nature. Mina (our central character and eyes into the world of The Sycamore Gap) definitely floats through the story, it isn’t until the end that she chooses to make her own decisions and take control of her own path.

The screening event will take place on Saturday 27th January and is free to attend at Thought Foundation Art Gallery on Durham Road.

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