Mr Turner: film release, UK cinemas October 31st
Mike Leigh presents Mr Turner: London cinemas get a chance to see the biopic everyone is raving about this Autumn.
To say that Leigh has never been one for frothy feel-good films would be an understatement of the greatest measure. The grim, heartbreaking tragedies of Vera Drake, All Or Nothing and Another Year leave the watcher unsettled by the painful adversity of living. Yet his hyper-naturalistic style mean that his films never slip into affected hyperbole.
Mr Turner, then, will be no Hollywood biopic – a misunderstood genius that takes on the world and wins. Instead Leigh focuses on the raw human emotions that forged his life, his character and his work. The narrative centres on Turner (Leigh favourite Timothy Spall), his ailing father William senior (Paul Jesson) and his housekeeper Hannah (Dorothy Atkinson). Though Hannah’s love for Turner is palpable, the artist takes her for granted, occasionally going so far as to sexually exploit her. When his father dies, Turner is profoundly disturbed and we follow him through his debauched exploits in brothels, whilst maintaining his credibility amidst aristocratic circles.
True to form, Leigh shot the movie using his familiar method: ‘We did what we always do: we developed our characters, and the research informed our decisions. But in the end, you have to make it happen – and there was no script, as always.’
That Turner’s human defects are presented in such a realistic way only serves to make his talent seem all the more extraordinary. Spall’s tender, naturalistic portrayal of the artist is strikingly empathetic and yet when coupled with the eccentricity of his flashes of genius (at one point he insists on strapping himself to the mast of a ship to paint Snow Storm) we are left bewildered by the patchwork of experience that formed his character.
Watch the trailer for Mr Turner: