I am not well versed in the world of theatre. Despite previous passions for acting, it’s something I know next to nothing about, though I do have some actress friends who are obsessed with it, and saw them together in a college production of Chekhov’s The Seagull about a year and a half ago. The play was brilliant. Both of them were exceptional as was the entire cast. The play was very well directed; a very engrossing and engaging production.
There was on issue, however: I didn’t have a fucking clue what was going on. I loved the experience, but every part of it just went completely over my head, and I found myself in an awkward position where the rest of the audience were having a ball, obviously very knowing of this stuff, and frankly it’s a miracle I was able to feel anything at all. So with Olmo and the Seagull, I had hoped to maybe pick up a better understanding of the acclaimed play, as well as delve deep into an enthralling film.
An hour and 22 minutes later, and I’m an uncultured swine.
That was my fault, I put far too much expectation into the Seagull aspect of the film, when in actuality it’s about a young actress named Olivia, who was playing Arkadina in the play alongside her boyfriend Serge, and suddenly fell pregnant. She was determined to carry on acting, but soon, health complications arose and she found herself isolated at home whilst her boyfriend carried on his work.The film takes a deep and existential look into the mind of Olivia during this time.
This is actually more of a docudrama than a documentary, with many portions of the film being obviously staged and directed, and others being very real and natural. Olmo and the Seagull is an astonishing film; the dramatic segments are so lovingly crafted, so emotionally involving and so delicately performed. Serge and Olivia are essentially just re-enacting their own experiences, and just from this re-enactment they perfectly convey this pain and struggle that literally only those two could know, and do it in a way that’s actually quite inviting to the audience, despite the fact we have no absolutely part in this story.
It paints a very real picture of what happened, not to mention that it’s superbly directed, and the music that accompanies it is marvelous. In the unscripted segments, Olivia frequently speaks to the interviewer, and even though she’s not acting, it feels like she’s giving the performance of a life time. Every word she says becomes more and more real and there isn’t a second where we don’t have an idea of what she went through.
The only real issue with this film is that can be confusing at times; it can be hard to tell when something is scripted and when it’s not. Like, there are several shots that just explore her house, or images of her with her pregnant belly (and definitely not fake ones) whilst her narration speaks over, but then it will immediately transitions into a scripted scene and, for a second, it’s hard to tell if it’s a continuation of what we just saw or if it’s a new scene, and that can be jarring at times. It also gets hard to tell in terms of camera work and framing, in that sometimes the scene looks real, but the events that take place don’t feel real or natural. Still, isn’t a huge issue, and certainly not one that ruins the film or dampens the experience.
Olmo and the Seagull is an enthralling and transcendental piece that beautifully explores the deep, dark recesses of Olivia’s mind in a way that’s tantalising and involving.
OLMO AND THE SEAGULL FEATURES AT OPEN CITY DOCUMENTARY ON THE 24th JUNE
SEE THE FULL PROGRAM NOW!