Edinburgh International Film Festival diary, 21 August
What do you do with Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde to keep it fresh? Everyone knows the twist, it’s been filmed over 120 times, staged infinitely more, and functions as the urtext for every subsequent tale about the duality of man, from The Incredible Hulk to Fight Club to countless werewolf movies.
Perhaps an answer is to be found in Hope Dickson Leach’s new adaptation, which receives its “world premiere” at EIFF tonight. The quote marks are there for a reason: many will have seen a version of Dickson Leach’s film when it was performed, shot and live-projected in Leith Theatre last year and subsequently screened as-live in select cinemas. A collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland, the version premiering tonight is the leaner feature film version, always part of the original plan, but now finessed with tighter editing, a score and some additional location work.
Filmed theatre is nothing new of course, and recent years have seen various stabs at live cinema (most notably Woody Harrelson’s Lost in London). But this hybrid offering’s big idea is to let content dictate form and see what comes out of a story about duelling impulses when made using the related yet competing disciplines of theatre and film.
Edinburgh’s split personality (the festering Old Town/the moneyed New Town) plays its part to, though it’s not the first film to transpose the story from Victorian London to Stevenson’s home city. Stephen Frears did his own Edinburgh version, Mary Reilly, in 1996. With John Malkovich in the Jekyll/Hyde role and the story told from the perspective of Dr Jekyll’s chambermaid, played by Julia Roberts, it was memorable solely (if at all) for having Roberts share scenes with British TV mainstay Kathy Staff. Pretty Woman and Nora Batty together at last. Now there’s duality.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde screens at the EIFF tonight. For more information and tickets visit: https://www.eif.co.uk/edinburgh-international-film-festival