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Andrea Arnold's RED ROAD Leads the Advance Party

Those Danes and their rules. Most film enthusiasts are familiar with the Dogme95 collective, which has spawned some remarkable films such as Thomas Vinterberg's THE CELEBRATION; Lars Von Trier's THE IDIOTS; Søren Kragh-Jacobsen's MIFUNE; Lone Scherfig's ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS; and Susanne Bier's OPEN HEARTS. Now after a conversation with Lars Von Trier, directors Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen (whose film ADAM'S APPLES we are going to see Monday night) have come up with a new concept called The Advance Party. The Advance Party is the banner for films incorporating the characters originated by Scherfig and Jensen after Lars von Trier had set the challenge of putting the same actors playing the same characters into different films authored by different directors. It was originated in 2002 by the Glasgow Film Office who suggested to Scottish Production Company Sigma Films that they persuade theirs partners at Zentropa (the Danish Production Company responsible for many Dogme95 films) to collaborate on a series of films by emerging directors.

The rules are as follows:

  • The scripts can take their starting point in one or more characters or they may be subjected to an external drama. The characters can also participate in a form that is governed primarily by neither characters nor plot.
  • The films take place in Scotland but apart from that the writers are free to place them anywhere according to geography, social setting or ethnic background. Their back-stories can be expanded, family relations can be created between them, they can be given habits good or bad, and secondary characters can be added if it is proper for the individual film.
  • The interpersonal relationships of the characters differ from film to film and they may be weighted differently as major or minor characters.
  • The development of the characters in each story or genre does not affect the other scripts.
  • All of the characters must appear in all of the films.
  • The various parts will be cast with the same actors in the same parts in all of the films.

Less technical and more character-driven than Dogme95, but still a spur to creativity by its limitations, The Advance Party first brings to mind the self-imposed structure of Chlotrudis Award multiple winner THE TRILOGY by Belgian director Lucas Belvaux, where three films, in different genres, about the same characters were filmed and released at the same time. THE TRILOGY won four Chlotrudis Awards in 1995 including Best Cast, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Movie (for which it tied with SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER... AND SPRING.)

The first of the Advance Party's films is Andrea Arnold's RED ROAD, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes last year. In RED ROAD, Jackie (Kate Dickie) works as a CCTV operator. Each day she watches over a small part of the world, protecting the people living their lives under her gaze. One day a man appears on her monitor, a man she thought she would never see again, a man she never wanted to see again. Now she has no choice, she is compelled to confront him. RED ROAD has already drawn comparisons to REAR WINDOW and Michael Haneke's Chlotrudis Awards winning CACHE.

In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine earlier this week, writer/director Arnold discusses The Advance Party, and the making of RED ROAD. Chlotrudis Board Member Bruce Kingsley caught RED ROAD earlier this year at the Miami International Film Festival, where it won Best Film. RED ROAD also features as one of its stars, Natalie Press, who was nominated for a Best Actress Chlotrudis Award for MY SUMMER OF LOVE. All of this is just to say that I'm very intrigued and getting excited about RED ROAD'S release, and it will be interesting to see where the other two participating directors (Morag Mckinnon and Mikkel Norsgaard) take these characters. It's the first time in several months that I have been intrigued and excited by an upcoming release that I'd never heard of before.