DISCLAIMER: I might refer to Simon Amstell as ‘Simon’ . . . this is quite ridiculous, but I will do it anyway.
A lot of what I have to say about this film, I’ll save until the cinema release. People have seen and are talking about Benjamin, at the BFI festival and then a room full at the Soho Curzon with me on Friday; but the nature of what I think is so unique about this film does make it more damaging to come to it with too many echoes of other people’s impressions. So I will refrain from spoilers or specific details.
Generally speaking cinemas promote an atmosphere I often find quite sinister . . . a whole crowd of people sitting and staring quite civilised in the same direction, laughing in unison, crying in unison, manipulated to the extent that the art of the film is controlling whole crowds of people at a time to react in the same way that sometimes doesn’t feel human. It’s odd that with all the experience that everyone that makes up an audience has on their respective backs cinema rarely plays on this to tempt you to respond differently to the people on either side of you. This was not the case in Benjamin. There is nothing dehumanising about watching this film and as you notice the things that are shocking you and cracking the next guy up, that you’re laughing at and someone else is crying for, you find yourself in experiencing the story that makes up Benjamin, aware of yourself and your own experiences in a theraputic, almost self-actualising way.
I think a lot of this originates from Simon (sorry) ‘s consistent dedication to presenting the truth (as opposed to the joke). The truth is often a lot funnier . . . and the natural fumble of human confusion is often a lot more moving than the kind of self-conscious and perfectly phrased speeches we’re accustomed to watching on big screen. In short, it’s the joy of watching the reflections of someone who really understands himself and his past and who is able to translate the raw truths of those very real vignettes into beautiful, fictionalised scenes. What Simon Amstell has managed so naturally to do is present to us the things we have forgotten. He reveals plainly what we have been too embarassed to remember, and reminds us publicly that they are OK.
For those that have followed Simon’s presenter cum panel-show host cum stand-up comedian cum sit-com star cum writer cum filmmaker career (whooof!) the plot of Benjamin itself may run the risk of seeming as though the writer is repeating himself. I expect such criticism to surface after the release of the film but although there is some validity to that in terms of plot (as can be expected from a creator who draws so directly from his life and in so many mediums) when experiencing the film first hand alongside the craft of the cinematography, the dialogue, the music and the angle it is so much more than evident that these malleable impressions of his youth have undertaken revelations and insights throughout his career and what is presented in Benjamin (as in all of his work) is a more current understanding and sheds light in a new, profound way. He hasn’t done this before, infact, nobody has.
I try not to make these blog posts too long . . . I have so much to say about this film and can’t wait to say it once it’s been released. The Q&A event after the preview was endearing and humble and it was great to see the film in the venue which acted as a backdrop for a lot of the scenes in the film itself. Unfortunately, when given the opportunity to say things I’d wanted to say to him after the event in the bar, or at least to ask some questions I did a very ‘me’ thing. . . I said I enjoyed the film and pretended I needed the toilet to get away from the opportunity! Safe to say it was all a bit too important!
Benjamin hits UK cinemas this month. It’s a hilarious and heartbreaking reflection on intimacy. Colin Morgan is harrowingly real – and the font is nice too.