When creating any artistic piece, it’s important to justify the medium you’re portraying your artistic vision in. It’s a conflicting task, deciding the most appropriate way to advocate your creative vision. It’s not uncommon to find a book, album, movie, video game, or even stage play which feels as though the wrong medium was clearly chosen. Mistakes happen. Even major mistakes like these. In the case of Craig Robert’s Eternal Beauty, the film’s primary fault is that the content isn’t fully justified for it to be a “film” to begin with. While there’s plenty of visually stimulating experimentation snippets sprinkled throughout the film’s densely repetitive 90-minute run time, the material and script given would have worked better as a stage play.
While Robert’s toys with ideas of frame rate changes, celluloid, and quick pans and cuts, there needed to be a bit more creative material in order for the film to be truly justified in its medium. The point of Eternal Beauty is to show a relevant mental-health drama from the perspective of a paranoid schizophrenic. So make it exactly that. Play with aspect ratios, locations, cameras, and sound cues! Intensify your surroundings! Make it feel as though the audience is reliving these very events from the point of view of June! What we instead received is frankly too tame, stylistic wise. It has plenty of substance, but way too much aimless direction for the story to be worthy of a cinematic treatment. The events portrayed become exhausting, where the film loses momentum after the first fifteen minutes or so, where the erratic vision becomes virtually insignificant.
Which brings me back to my point about Eternal Beauty working better as a stage play. The film is primarily self contained in three major locations, all interiors. Imagine this material with minimalist production design, as a live 90-minute play. Sally Hawkins’ brilliant central role would still remain intact. Even some specific scenes could be improved onstage with some improvisation. Same goes with David Thewlis, Alice Lowe, and the rest of the supporting cast. A stage play, with the right director and vision, would have ultimately lead to more pleasing and accessible results due to the medium’s free flowing and improvisation heavy approach.
Reminiscent of similar faults to the spectacularly under-seen London Road, Eternal Beauty is by no means a bad film. It’s decently crafted, though the material depicted deserved more free reign. Robert’s has a unique voice, though his film isn’t all memorable, nor does it leave a significant thematic impact. All we’re left with is an anthology of somewhat unfortunate psychosomatic & traumatic events; all told through a medium that doesn’t feel necessarily earned.
Eternal Beauty screened at this year’s Glasgow International Film Festival in the Local Heroes program. The film will screen again on March 5th at 4:00 PM