Bringing Hopper’s Work to Life – Shirley: Visions of Reality, a 90-Second Review

Thirteen Edward Hopper paintings brilliantly come alive in Shirley: Visions of Reality, an Austrian film that will likely be remembered as one of the most original and successful experimental feature releases of 2013.

A labor of love for architect/experimental artist Gustav Deutsch, the work, a visual and intellectual feast seven years in the making, is nothing if not monumentally ambitious.

The film takes place over the course of more than three decades with the 13 brilliantly recreated Hopper works used as time period episodes, or sets. Together they coalesce into an examination and reflection of social change in 20th Century America through the voice of Shirley, a charismatic New York actress, played by Canadian-born and Vienna-based dancer Stephanie Cumming.

Smart and independent, Shirley uses each episode to reflect upon the politics, history, literature and drama of each respective period, either by narrating through an “inner monologue” or, as an actress, “playing a role”. The story starts during the Great Depression and ends in the Vietnam War era –a radio newscaster sets the time frame for each episode with a brisk reading of the headlines– and while the times progress, Shirley remains the same throughout, much like Hopper’s unchanging painting style so meticulously recreated here, down to the impossible Hopperesque light.

It’s no surprise that Deutsch would seek a dancer for the role of his invention Shirley. With plenty of space and silence, expressive body movement and a delicate understatement was essential for the role, and Cumming pulls it off fabulously well.

Check out the trailer below, visit the film’s excellent website and keep your eyes open for a screening near you. Don’t miss this.

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Screened at the 24th Ljubljana International Film Festival, 09-Nov-2013.
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