The bustling Frederiks bar on Hope street hosted the screening of the British romantic drama, Kelly + Victor presented by Wow FEST with special guest Niall Griffiths. Niall is best known for his novels Grits, Sheepshagger and his 2003 publication Stump which won the Wales Book of the Year Award. Kelly and Victor is his third novel.
I first read Kelly+Victor as a teenager and was completely overwhelmed by the story. I'm a scouser and even now still get uncool kicks out of stories that are linked to my home town, that coupled with a transgressive love intrigued and baffled my younger self. It was only when I reread the tale some years later I truly appreciated the depth, darkness and skill of Griffiths writing and fully understood the novels themes. You can imagine my delight when I heard it was being adapted to screen.
The proceedings opened with an introduction from Mike Morris, giving us a background of Niall Griffiths life and works and preparing the floor for the man himself.
Niall is a funny and likeable character and spoke in a brutally honest manner. He gave us a brief history of how the film came to fruition, detailing his first meeting with the director of the movie, Kieran Evans and how they bonded over their backgrounds and love of Liverpool Football Club. He stated he could see Kieran had a vision and this cemented his faith that he'd do the story justice. They adapted parts of the screenplay together in a hotel room.
Niall offered us his thoughts on casting process, stating that Julian Morris was 'too pretty' for the character of Victor but on further observation of him in action he could see he brought a vulnerability and sense of a tortured soul that made him perfect for the film.
'Victor is baffled by himself and Julian captured this well' (Griffiths)
Both the main characters, Julian Morris and Antonia Campbell-Hughes, were not first choices but worked in glorious harmony with each other, the chemistry on screen, perfect.
The film, from first-time feature director Kieran Evans, follows the pair as they become romantically involved and find pleasure and darkness inextricably entwined in each other. It is an adaptation directed with artistic flair and a naturalistic performance from its protagonists. It took some ten years to be realised and it was worth the wait. A critically acclaimed film with a BAFTA award for best director has encouraged people to pay more attention to Niall's work and he has more screenplays in the pipe line as a result.
Kelly + Victor is intensely and beautifully shot. The sex scenes which are so integral to the story are mesmerising and disturbing, passionately brutal but beautiful. If you're looking for a feel good film, this isn't it. This is a haunting modern day love story full of twisted darkness and capturing the awkward yet magical beginning of new love.
In the question and answer session Niall spoke about his frustration and boredom with the long process of the film's creation and his own characters so much so that after the initial screen adapting and casting he left creative licence in the hands of the director and continued with other work. He said his only condition for the adaptation was that it had to be filmed in Liverpool, stating the vibrancy and colour of the city made it important to the story and to him.
Niall spoke about some of the cinematic devices and changes that had to be made for the improvement of the script which he believed were a necessary sacrifice. Niall was asked about the fear of handing over his story and the worry around losing the inner dialogue in translation to screenplay. It was something he gave plenty of thought to but stated he is happy with the result and think Kieran captured it adequately.
One of the audience members questioned Niall about why Victor likes Kelly, having not read the book she struggled with the attraction on screen. Niall responded that the story in its essence is about wanting more than the daily life, wanting vividness and vibrancy. The search beyond the mundane and craving something more than the grind. He also spoke abut the fear we have as humans of dying without leaving a mark on the world, the terror of insignificance and the characters find the antidote for that in each other, a chemistry beyond words.
Overall it was an interesting and thought provoking evening. I highly recommend the film and Niall's other novels for their realism, darkness and character depth.
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by Natalie Denny