Wednesday, 27 January 2021

REVIEW: Finney’s Ghost for the Living Record Festival Online

The Living Record Festival is an eclectic mix of content described “as digital media designed specifically for streaming created by over 40 independent artists and theatre companies from across the world. Accessible from your living room at the click of a button, the Living Record Festival is a celebration of ground-breaking grassroots digital art happening between the 17th of January and 22nd February 2021.” Having sampled and enjoyed a selection of their offerings I returned again to view Finney’s Ghost and it proved well worthwhile with a beautifully edited and narrated film which keeps you intrigued and mystified throughout its 38-minute running time. 

Although shot pre-pandemic in 2015 this moving film is given an extra poignancy by the current lockdown, deaths, and uncertainty around our lives. How many of us have sorted a cupboard and found a box of long-forgotten photos, perhaps left to us by a relative and looked at them trying to picture the story they capture. How many times have we wondered how those less fortunate than us homeless on the street are surviving this winter without shelter or even able to beg to passer-by’s on empty street? David Fox takes these two thoughts and combines them into a mysterious ghost story which has filmed and edited into a very well-crafted story.

Imagine a knock on the door of your flat and a police officer presents you with a small old, battered case which has apparently been left to you 10 years earlier when a homeless boy was found dead on the street after a winters swim in a London lake. What does it contain? Why has it been left to you? What is the meaning of the contents? Pearl Black (delightfully & thoughtfully played by Eleanor Barr) is the woman who receives the bequest from William Gabriel Finney with the message “to be opened on my death”. When she opens it is full of pictures, many of which include herself in them, shot around London streets and annotated with messages and quotes from Shakespeare, Karl Marx, George Musser, and William Blake. This is no ordinary boy. Was he a stalker? She realises that she had met him occasionally on the street but does not recall him having a camera or being present when some of the photos were taken.

The camera follows her as she retraces the steps the camera must have followed trying to piece together the clues of the mystery and recalls incidents and characters from the time of the photographs. It’s a mystical and mysterious journey as she tries to fit the jigsaw puzzle together like a detective on a crime scene. Her journey takes her around the City of London to Cecil Court, Jerusalem Tavern and Bunhill Fields cemetery where William Blake is buried. She senses he is near, or a memory is stirred. Occasional glimpses and recollections are seen of Finn played by James Davis. But it is her narration that has a poetic quality as she tries to create order in the random set of photographs that grabs you and intrigues you.

Definitely worth watching so you can decide was he just another invisible homeless person on the street who took a shine to her small acts of kindness, or a strange stalker watching her closely, or a heavenly spirit inspiring her to think differently about the world around her or just a ghost of a forgotten soul looking for release from this earth. Totally absorbing, well-edited and a call for us as we emerge from Lockdown to look out for those around us who might need our help but can’t ask for it.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: £5

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