Film: Further Beyond – A Journey Well Worth Taking

further-beyond

With HELEN and MISTER JOHN, directors Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy proved themselves adept at thoughtful and intelligent fiction features. Mark Kermode waxed lyrical about HELEN in this video review:

It’s one of those little gems that really makes you think cinema can still be exciting and exceptional in ways that are frankly inexplicable.

Their latest film is also exceptional; a wonderfully playful, stimulating, and hard to characterise ‘documentary’  called FURTHER BEYOND. Leslie Felperin’s five star review describes it as:

by turns an essay film in the tradition of Chris Marker (San Soleil) and Patrick Keiller (London), a documentary, and a quirky drama about loss and exile…For those who care about film-making that pushes against what’s possible – and fundable – in an age of cautious, cookie-cutter comic-book franchises and safe-bet awards bait, this is essential viewing.

FURTHER BEYOND is about Ambrose O’Higgins, an 18th-century figure who migrates from Ireland to Chile. Or rather, it is a film about how the biopic of this historical figure might be made. It’s also about the insightful and witty observations, ruminations, and frequent digressions along the way.

David Jenkins, in his Little White Lies review, says:

This brilliant latest feature offers a playful deconstruction of conventional narrative filmmaking, picking up on bad habits and clichés and puncturing through the fourth wall to emphasise the subtle connections between fact and fiction. Further Beyond is a movie biopic that’s been carefully pulled inside-out, interested in posing questions about the ethics of representation and what it means to deliver personal history as objective fact.

I think Donald Clarke, writing in the Irish Times, gets the best analogy when he says:

There is something of Lawrence Stern’s Tristram Shandy about the piece. Just as that 18th-century novel took endless discursions while deconstructing the form, Further Beyond refuses to settle down and be a conventional documentary. [It’s] a labyrinthine journey well worth taking.

 

One of the joys of this film is being immersed in a ‘story’ that is continually re-shaping and re-forming itself, making new connections and discoveries, then looking at itself again and making new discoveries. In a piece written by the directors for Mubi, they say:

The process of making Further Beyond is a million miles away from the process of making narrative fiction. We discovered, or should we say, rediscovered the pleasure of walking and talking, researching, filming, editing, writing and back to walking and talking again as a legitimate way of putting a film together. A reminder that it is not always necessary to start with a script. For us, when making Further Beyond, this freedom of approach meant we could continually change the course of the documentary’s direction based on the actual material we were getting and not what we imagined we might get…

At its core, Further Beyond is about our desire to make a bio pic about a little known but compelling 17th century Irish man, Ambrose O’Higgins—a poor tenant farmer who left Ireland for South America before eventually becoming the Governor General of Chile. We thought that would be enough. However, as we began to make this documentary we quickly felt the facts of his life—the history lesson, so to speak—were only part of what was interesting to us. We also found what he represented equally compelling. And then, during the process of researching the material, we came across old video tape footage of my mother, Helen. Like Ambrose, Helen’s story is also one of migration and travel, which began when she was 11 months old and was put on a ship in New York, unaccompanied, to be sent off to relatives in Ireland. Helen’s story began to compete for our attention but, yet again, what interested us was what she represented. What she embodied. Suddenly—suddenly?—no, gradually, we had two intertwining narratives so that the film became more complex and intriguing and, it has to be said, more unwieldy…

As the film developed it also became more personal to us. More personal in terms of its content but also in how it was being expressed. In fact, we think it’s fair to say it’s the most personal film we’ve ever made. We didn’t set out with this in mind but it just moved in that direction and we felt we had to follow it. This might sound like the film was controlling us and not the other way around. That the film itself could tell us where to go next. What it wanted next. Seems stupid to say this but even as we sit and type these words, we’re not entirely sure that this wasn’t the case. Spooky.


A special screening of the film will take place at the Arts Picturehouse in Cambridge on Tuesday 7th February at 18:15, after which I will be hosting a Q&A with Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor.

Don’t miss this great opportunity to see FURTHER BEYOND on the big screen and meet the filmmakers in person.