John M Brinnin
Apparently only completed 17 days before it was shown at the 2014 EIFF Andy Goddard’s debut feature film Set Fire to the Stars (2014) is the story of Dylan Thomas’s first visit to the United States of America.
It was the American poet, literary critic and lecturer John Malcolm Brinnin (Elijah Woods) who invited Thomas (Celyn Jones) to New York in 1950 for the first time to embark on a three-month tour of art centres and university’s, which eventually took in about 40 venues. The movie deals with the problems that Brinnin had with Dylan Thomas’s erratic and drunken behaviour and how he befriended and tried to help the Welsh poet battle his demons, taking him to his family’s isolated summerhouse for a weeklong retreat.
Filmed in black and white at Swansea Bay in Wales in just 18 days, it’s hard to believe we are not in 1950’s America, which owes a lot the DOP Chris Seager and the production designer Edward Thomas. It was Celyn Jones (Castles in the Sky 2014) who told a very full house that he had always wanted to tell this story and portray Thomas, he does in fact look uncannily like him, and it was when he met Andy Goddard that the pair co-wrote the screenplay and the idea for the film began to take shape. They both agreed that the only actor that they felt was right for the part of John Brinnin was Woods, who after reading the script agreed to join the project. From then on it became a true labour of love and it shows in the final product.
A wordy two-handed character piece that highlights what I feel to be a non-sexual love affair between two world-renowned academics. But a film that has what Elijah Wood so eloquently described as ‘movement, energy and life’, and I would add humour ‘only the truth is funny’. Which in turn is due to some great writing, and superb performances from our two lead actors. This low budget film, which is hard to believe when you watch it, has a great soundtrack scored by one of Celyn Jones musical hero’s Gruff Rhys from the Welsh rock band Super Furry Animals – which we were told would be released in one form or another. Well worth seeing for Jones uncanny performance, which, given the right exposure, could see an acting nomination come the award season?