Film review: Eadweard

Part of a series of reviews for films from the 2016 Kamloops Film Festival

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Eadweard follows the life of Eadweard Muybridge, an 1860s photographer famous for his work in human and animal motion, which preceded modern motion pictures.

If nothing more, Eadweard is a fascinating glance into the history of photography and film. Muybridge is a man who sees the world in photographs, and is overwhelmingly interested in capturing the moments, the raw motion, between portraits. At one point he says “we are never truly still… Even at rest we’re constantly moving, until we die.”

Muybridge is played by Michael Eklund and his wife, Flora, by Sara Canning. In the beginning of the film, these two characters meet and begin a playful yet intense relationship. As the plot progresses, Muybridge succumbs more and more to his jealousy of his wife’s interactions with other men. We are never quite sure of the legitimacy of this jealousy, as Muybridge’s eyes frequently play tricks on him. His confusion and emotional behaviour is probably due to a stagecoach accident that happened several years before the film takes place, an accident the character Muybridge also claims as the reason behind his hair turning white.

Both stars of this film are stunning, and to be honest, I had a hard time seeing Eklund with white hair and a bushy white beard. I thought for sure this was an old character played by a much younger man, and sure enough, Eklund was born in 1975, making him about ten years younger than Muybridge admits to being at one point in the film.

The second most beautiful thing in this film, besides the actors, is the spectacular use of natural lighting. The film was shot in Vancouver and set in Pennsylvania, where Muybridge has set up an outdoor photography studio in a pasture. Every scene shot in this location is breathtaking, and there are frequent sunset scenes, not to mention the various dusk, late afternoon and early morning scenes that are easily deciphered by the natural light. The characters onscreen are constantly aware of their light source (this is a film about photography after all) and this awareness is also reflected in how cinematographer Tony Mirza captured these beautiful scenes.

Eventually, Muybridge’s jealousy gets the best of him, and he murders his wife’s lover, when he discovers the man, a theatre critic named Harry Larkyns, may have fathered his wife’s son. Eadweard Muybridge is credited as being the last man in America to be acquitted on the grounds of justifiable homicide.

Eadweard is a moving film that delves into the life and emotions of a talented and revolutionary artist. It leaves an audience member intrigued and wanting to learn more.

Out of Sight, an exhibit by the Vancouver Art Gallery featuring the photography of Eadweard Muybridge will be at the Kamloops Art Gallery until March 19.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the birth year of Michael Eklund, who was born in 1975 and not 1962.