One of the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival's biggest movies is Andy Goddard's Set Fire to the Stars. It gets it's international debut here in the Scottish capital. This has been the one movie I was most excited for this year and damn.
Dylan Thomas was a poet and writer, born in Swansea, Wales, whose works include Do not go gentle into the good night, And death shall have no dominion and Love in the Asylum (this was the one featured in the film).
He was a journalist at the age of 16 and whilst his articles appeared in prints, it was his publication of Light breaks where no sun shines, in 1934, that caught the attention of the literary world and began his career. He was an alcoholic and in 1950 he travelled to America, where his reckless behaviour and drinking only worsened.
Goddard's film, Set Fire to the Stars, is based on Dylan's time in 1950's New York and follows his personal and professional relationship with his tour-agent, for America, John M. Brinnin who sets out to try and save the hell-raising, alcohol lover that was once his hero. It's rough ground for the director as, not only is it his first feature film, it's also a dififcult task to be handling and a concept that has the potential to erupt into flames and just sprawl everywhere in mass chaos. Luckily, though, it doesn't.
From the film's opening, right through to the end, you can tell that Goddard is a natural director, the way he makes everything work.
Shot in beautiful monochrome digital by cinematographer Chris Seager, the film has a classy look and feel to it and really does take you back to the olden days of the 50's! The theme and black-and-white touch to everything can, at first, be slightly off-putting but put it to some cracking music from Gruff Rhys and it all links together beautifully to make the whole scene feel natural and fit right in. Rhys' tunes feature heavily in this film and they are soothing and smashing all the way through. Everything is chilled and groooooovy.
Elijah Wood is Brinnin with Celyn Jones as Thomas and the duo fit perfectly in this old fashioned world, with their constant smoking and their sassy fashion; they could have easily belonged in that era. Their on-screen chemistry is just splendid and it makes their meticulous and challenging bromance believable and bolder as the pair of acquaintances, with very opposite ideals, tackle problem after problem after problem.
The acting from Wood is brilliant. He excels as the classy, aspiring poet wanting to save his hero from drowning in his alcohol addiction and depression.
He really delivers and makes his equivocal character truly believable. We can feel and relate to his character's emotion.
Also, Wood knows how to rock the 50's look!!!
As good as Elijah is, though, it is Jones that steals the show. He pours genuine emotion into his role and he is able to convey Dylan's buoyant personality in a magnificent manner and we really do feel towards his lost, misunderstood character.
The duo are at the heart of the film and share some memorable scenes, my favourite being when the two sit in a boat against some jaw-droppingly gorgeous scenery to some ace score from Rhys, although there is a rather excellent scene with Kevin Eldon's Stanley Hyman and Shirley Henderson's Shirley Hyman in which Brinnin tells a tale from his childhood and just the way it is done, it's silently moving and powerful.
Set Fire to the Stars is a film brimming with ingenuity that is utterly compelling and a very memorable piece of cinema that is classy, fun and, on the whole, mesmerising. A masterpiece from Goddard.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.