“Even at rest we’re constantly moving. Until we die.” Eadweard Muybridge.
These prophetic words set the tone for Eadweard, a biopic about the turn-of-the-century English photographer that’s infused with gorgeous visuals and fine performances.
Eadweard takes us through the most important years of Muybridge’s career and personal life. Played with aplomb by Michael Eklund, we witness the beginnings of his obsession with moving pictures. Using multiple cameras, Muybridge takes stop-motion photographs to capture the human body in motion. He describes them as his “children” who will live forever.
Muybridge finds love and kinship with Flora, embodied gracefully by Sara Canning. We don’t learn much about her history before their fateful meeting, but she becomes an artistic foil for the temperamental photographer.
Unfortunately that temperament tears apart the couple. After a family tragedy, Muybridge sinks himself further into his work, taking photos of nudes (scandalous) and of deformities at the asylum. He becomes controlling of Flora, and she takes solace in the arms of reporter Harry Larkyns, who was sent to write about Muybridge’s work. The film climaxes with Muybridge becoming famous for something other than his images: he becomes the last American to receive the justifiable homicide verdict.
Directed by Kyle Rideout and co-written by Rideout and Josh Epstein, Eadweard is an interesting character study of an artistic genius. The film is a visual feast, filled with gorgeous sets and beautiful period costumes. Everything floats back and forth between lush colours and grim darkness.
Eklund does a magnificent job in the title role, walking the line between genius and madness. Canning is stunning as Flora, bringing out the various sides of Muybridge onscreen: childish anger, voracious hunger, and stubborness.
In a world where cameras are all around us, even built directly into our phones and tablets, it is fascinating to see one aspect of where photography got started.
Eadweard plays in Vancouver at Vancity Theatre October 16-22, and I rate it 4 out of 5 raindrops.