Bridgend Directed by Jeppe Rønde Denmark, 2015 Philadelphia Film Festival …
A feeling of gloom pervades every frame of Bridgend, the Danish teen drama which makes its Canadian premiere at Fantasia. Even as the kids drink and dance in ecstasy (in a scene which wouldn’t be out of place in Skins, the British soap where star Hannah Murray got her break) or skinny dip in large groups, there’s an undeniable sense of melancholy in their maniacal celebrations. Given the sadness evident in otherwise ebullient scenes such as these, the ominous shots of the countryside shrouded in darkness or mournful messages on a computer screen make life in the film’s titular Welsh town seem unbearably grim.
There are hints of Jacques Demy aspirations, fashion chic in vein with the Nouvelle Vague, and one can’t help but think of the films of Scotland’s Bill Forsyth (Gregory’s Girl, Comfort and Joy) with the mostly warm tone of God Help the Girl’s use of inner and greater Glasgow. What Murdoch’s film most recalls, however, is the British New Wave of the 1960s, particularly the works of Richard Lester (A Hard Day’s Night, The Knack …and How to Get It) and John Schlesinger’s Billy Liar; Browning’s Eve even sports a hairstyle for a while that strongly recalls British New Wave regular Rita Tushingham.
God Help the Girl is a long-gestating musical film project from Stuart Murdoch, leader of Scottish indie pop group Belle and Sebastian. Having first released an album of the same name in 2009 with the help of various female vocalist collaborators, the first-time screenwriter and director finally got the intended film off the ground thanks to the efforts of US producer Barry Mendel (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Bridesmaids) and some Kickstarter donations.