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Summer 1965: from "Sight and Sound" magazine

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Jan. 1st, 1970 | 12:30 pm

Excerpts from "On location" report on "Herostratus."

... Levy spent a good deal of his time testing artists: having decided that this was to be a film developed entirely by improvisation around a firm narrative, he wanted a particularly malleable and intense type of player. After the extensive improvised auditions, he settled on Michael Gothard, then a drama student, for the lead …

Main shooting took place between August 1964 and March 1965 in a variety of London locations (there is no studio work), including the Royal College of Art, Regent Street Polytechnic and a slum house in Paddington …

Herostratus Sight and Sound, Summer 1965d

[Levy] “The film has several long takes up to four minutes. Some people are afraid of these, but I feel I need them here as the actors require space to reveal their deepest states of intensity ...

We also wanted to re-create the broken syntax of real speech: therefore, we never used any fixed dialogue or detailed action and the players never saw a script. Details of characterisations and dialogue were all developed during a very complicated process of improvisation and recall, designed to produce through various psychological methods a peculiar emotional state whereby the acting became behaviour. The improvisation was not based on their own characters … but was used as a technique for freeing and distorting action and reaction and enveloping the characters of the play.”

Mr. Levy added that sometimes the actors appeared to be in a state akin to hypnosis, during which they were able to operate by drawing directly on the subconscious. In connection with one scene I saw where the girl, posed in the corner of the screen against a white wall, goes into a long hysterical outburst, he commented: “The actress was not informed of the end result required. The scene was gradually built up by a violent actress-character conflict during the recall and preparation which took about two hours. When it finally occurred, two members of the unit were not able to watch and one was unable to work.”

I asked Mr Levy if he was generally satisfied with the way things had gone. “… The basic idea was certainly accomplished and, although some extremely startling things have happened, these have only opened the way to vast unexplored spaces both in film-making and drama."

Full review:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

It is interesting to note that despite these “vast unexplored spaces” awaiting him, Don Levy did not make another film for public viewing.


Thanks to Belsizepark for finding this review.

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