When Bertie Gilbert first announced his latest short film, I was worried it was another pretentious case of “well, I know there’s another film with this name, but who cares about a Beatles concert film, I’m better than the Beatles.” Yet the allusions to the Beatles are entirely deliberate. It forms an interesting metaphor for the evolution of a relationship, the development of a person, the changing perspectives and approaches (from teenage love songs to political activism and philosophical musings), until one reaches their inevitable death – sometimes sooner rather than later, circa 1969.
This metaphor also perfectly sums up my relationship with Bertie’s films. I began in awe of him; I’m still envious of the amount of experience he’s had when he’s several months younger than me. Yet the cracks are beginning to show. Of course they’ve always been there, I’ve just never been able to perceive them. The cinematography remains draw dropping, thanks in no small part to Ciaran O’Brien. Some of the acting leaves a little to be desired, and there’s something odd about seeing Jack Howard (seen here as partygoer Mitch), Dodie Clark (playing Martha, an obvious allusion to Martha My Dear) and Bertie Gilbert’s house (I think it’s his house) reused for the billionth time.
The personification of Death as a naive black-haired girl (played by Bertie’s girlfriend, Savannah Brown), sick of her eternal career of killing good people really creates a strong premise for the film. Bertie’s character exists as the ex-boyfriend wanting to reignite a relationship with Martha, when their time is clearly over.
There isn’t a strict linear delineations between ‘early Beatles’ and ‘later Beatles’ – there’s deep and distinctive material in their early work too, but it didn’t really come into fruition until Rubber Soul (1965) and Revolver (1966), and manifested more fully in the albums that followed. Nothing is made of the irony that Martha doesn’t like the Beatles’ later work, and yet plays Let it Be on piano.
But don’t expect the same sort of musings on mortality and the existence of God as The Seventh Seal (1957): expect scattered motivational words on accepting mortality and finding purpose in life, and the occasional bit of comedy.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have strong ideas. But much as my relationship with The Beatles, after 5 or 6 years of listening to them, the impact just isn’t the same. At all.