Song of hope
The 1996 Venice Film Festival provided the platform for the premiere of Ken Loach’s Carla’s Song, shot in Glasgow last year.
Sally Williams reports from the city
Scotland and Nicaragua are not normally mentioned in the same breath. but Car/u '3 Song — the thought- provoking new ﬁltn by Ken Loach — brings the two together in what. for many. has been the emotional highlight ofthe 53rd Venice Film Festival. Set in I987. the ﬁlm starts off in Glasgow where bus driver George (played by Trainspotting and Hamish Mitchel/1's Robert Carlyle) meets Carla (Oyanka Cabezas). a Nicaraguan exile. He rescues her from an authoritarian ticket inspector. defends her against an aggressive hostel manageress and hijacks his own double-decker to take her to the hills behind Loch Lomond. This is the prelude to the love story and journey of consciousness George embarks on with Carla.
In Glasgow. Carla is alone and homesick. and when she attempts suicide. it emerges that she is suffering from post-traumatic shock. George helps her to confront her past by travelling back to Nicaragua with her in search of her ex-boyfriend. Cabczas. in real life a dancer in Nicaragua. admits that she too had feelings of solitude and isolation in Glasgow
during the shoot. that she faced difﬁculties expressing
herself in English and felt transformed back in her homeland. In many ways. she experienced the same emotional processes as her character.
Loach is able to draw remarkable performances out of his actors. and Carlyle — who teamed up with the
director on Riﬂ‘Rajf— gives a tender. sincere portrayal of the Glaswegian bus driver. Carlyle is the
ﬁrst to admit that George is an easy character to play.
and Loach praises the actor's generosity in giving tnuch support to Cabezas. claiming. in fact. that he was able to direct her through the young Scot. At the Venice press conference for the ﬁlm. Cabezas arrives from Madrid just as the questions are drawing to a close. There is nothing stage-managed or artiﬁcial about her emotional reunion with her director and fellow actor.
Apart from participating in various beneﬁts in the 80s. Carlyle knew very little about the political situation in Nicaragua prior to ﬁlming there once the Scottish location work (partly ﬁnanced by the Glasgow Film Fund) had been completed. The nine- week shoot in Nicaragua. however. profoundly moved him. ‘I was completely drained.’ he admits. ‘I had learned so much about Nicaragua. it would take somebody with a heart of stone not to be affected by that.‘
Carla '3‘ Song is the result of a six-year collaborative effort between Loach and Glaswegian writer Paul Laverty. It is directly inspired by Laverty‘s own
Robert Carlyle ilnds solidarity with Oyanka Cabezos ln Carla’s Song
experiences during the 80s in Nicaragua, where he was working as a human rights lawyer. Both screenwriter and director are eager to emphasise the close relationship between the script and the ﬁnal ﬁlm. as well as their absolute commitment to portraying events that actually happened. Laverty insists on the importance of remembering that the US-ﬁnanced Contras were not just teenage thugs battling within Nicaragua. the whole thing was planned by the CIA over a long period of time.
This is a ﬁlm about accepting responsibility, making friends and upholding solidarity. Loach says it is deliberately less polemical than his previous ﬁlm. [said And Freedom. hence the absence of political debate. More importantly. it is about ‘the myriad of little human exchanges that unite people from different countries and cultures'. In exchanges with the campesinos in Nicaragua. George introduces them to whisky and gives away his City of Glasgow T- shirt. These are moments of humour, joy and human bonding that not only make you laugh. but conspire to underline the tragedy of Nicaragua.
Cur/a Is Song is due to open in Scotland in January I 997.
A decade aiter winning the coveted Best Actor Oscar as an imprisoned South American homosexual in Kiss 0! ﬁre Spider Woman, William Hurt remains one oi the bravest lioliywood leading men when it comes to career choices. While many oi his peers have kept within the saie coniines oi studio star packages, the 46-year-old actor has gambled on a series oi smaller American prolects, such as
William llurt and Charlotte Bainsbourg In Jane Eyre
Wayne Wang’s Smoke, and European co-productions, including British ioster-parent drama Second Best and Chantal Akerman’s clunking romantic comedy A Couch In New York, lit up only by llurt’s inspired eiiorts.
low, as part oi the rush oi iilm adaptations oi classic novels, llurt joins French-English actress Charlotte Sainsbourg in Franco leiierelii’s Jane Eyre, playing Charlotte Brontii’s tortured, brooding here, Mr Rochester.
‘I read the book a long time ago and, when the project was iirst mooted, I went back to it and was blown away by it,’ ilurt explains. ‘liochester is a wonderiul character. lie rises out as a great romantic ilgure with
tremendous energy and power. lie is very much at the centre oi many conillcting loyalties; he is compelled and repelled, and he is really at the crossroads oi many diiierent iorces.’
liurt joins a respectable list oi heavyweights who have taken on the role, including Orson Welles and George C. Scott, but reiuses to let this bother him: ‘I give myseli added pressureiilseehimasaiarnousrole with a lot oi expectations riding on the piece. The iact that other actors have played him is not hportut. lioles are made to be played by diiierent actors. What irightens me is what Charlotte Brent! might think oi me as Rochester.’ (Alan Morrison) Jane Eyre opens on Fri 27.
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 1996 is