London Film Festival Debriefing

So the BFI London Film Festival is over for another year. I managed to catch thirty-five films this year, as well as a smattering of press conferences and a round table interview. Having seen less than a quarter of the films shown throughout the festival, I have undoubtedly missed some gems. With this in mind, the following is a very brief appraisal of the festival.

The Best Films I Saw: The Artist, Shame, The Ides of March

The Films That Were As Good As Expected: This Must Be the Place, Headhunters, Martha Marcy May Marlene

The Unexpected Gem: The Monk

The Films I Wish I Had Seen: 50/50, Nobody Else But You

The Film I Wish I Could Unsee: Shock Head Soul

Film Review: Shock Head Soul

Shock Head Soul is a docu-drama about Daniel Paul Schreber. It is unclear whether director Simon Pummell was attempting to provoke a manic episode from viewers with the sheer dullness of proceedings. Instead, the film is likely to render them in a comatose state.

Combining expert opinion and dramatic rendition, Shock Head Soul tells the story of Daniel Paul Schreber. In the late nineteenth century, Schreber was a prominent judge before being confined to an institution after receiving messages from God. In 1903, Schreber published his memoirs, detailing his mental illness. His work was later remarked upon by Freud and others…

Head Shock Soul focuses on a fascinating subject. It is a shame that it is projected in such an uninteresting manner. The film becomes tedious quickly, and overall feels like a wasted opportunity.

Pummell’s film can be categorised as a docu-drama, alhough it does not follow a straightforward format. The lengthy reenactments add very little to the overall film. Some scenes simply go on for too long, such as the padded cell sequence. These scenes grow more tiresome as the film progresses.

The choice of expert speakers is a little unusual. Ian Christie, a film historian, brings nothing to the film, which makes his inclusion puzzling. Elsewhere, the scene in which the experts interact with Schreber’s wife does not work at all and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Shock Head Soul would have been far more absorbing if it had concentrated on greater illustrating the facts, included more exposition on the thoughts of Freud and Jung, and had extolled on the impact of Schreber’s writing. In its current form it is one to be avoided.

Shock Head Soul is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.