t h e c o m e d i an
31st May 2013
10th June 2013
The Comedian is a difficult film to like. But that’s not to say it doesn’t deserve to be seen. As an attempt to depict a realistic, believable view of a life and to a certain extent of a city, it should resonate with a good proportion of its audience. Somewhat experimental in nature – the dialogue is improvised – this is an interesting and difficult watch.
Set in London, the film tells the sorry tale of a call-centre worker who moonlights in the brutal world of pub standup comedy. We follow Ed as he struggles with just about every aspect of his life – his job is soul-destroying, his sexuality seems uncertain and his home life is confusing and ultimately distressing. Ed is a very lost soul indeed. And for the most part, not a particularly sympathetic one. He’s jealous, sullen, petulant and not the world’s greatest comedian by some distance. So somebody the majority of us can relate to.
And this is what makes the film interesting and all the more distressing. Ed is pretty much an isolated personality and we’re given little information about or explanation for his situation. His motivations for his standup are never addressed; we’re left to speculate from the two snapshots of his performances that we witness. Both show him as a deliberately angry figure; the first seems to go relatively well, the second is a disaster. Neither are given much room in the film though, we get a brief glimpse of Ed’s nerves before the performance, close shots of him performing and then the aftermath in a dressing room. Everything is filmed to heighten the sense of his isolation, it’s never even really clear how many people he’s performing to.
A chance encounter on a bus lightens Ed’s lot in life when he meets a young artist who chats him up after witnessing Ed’s crash and burn at the standup gig. But even the depiction of the relationship doesn’t give much room for joy. The sex is as dark as Ed’s moods and when he introduces his new boyfriend to his small group of friends, we get a dialogue-free night out around clubs and bars that eventually leads to Ed storming off in a fit of childish rage at how well his new man is getting on with his two friends.
The night out is probably the best section of the movie. The entire movie is filmed using natural light and the soundtrack is made of only the sounds available (music in the club, traffic noises etc) so the night out is punctuated by thumping music and ambient noises outside a kebab shop. No dialogue is heard in the entire section but the actors play it so well that it’s easy to see the group dynamic peak and then fade as Ed’s attitude gradually poisons the evening.
The ambient sounds of the city deserve a special mention, as they are something of a revelation. It’s the first time I’ve really spent any time considering just how washed out and clinical movies sound. The Comedian really lets the sounds of the city breathe, the announcements in the background on the bus are a great example – they really make you feel like the city is a character in the movie.
The only frustration with the movie is that it’s short running time leaves us little room to get to the bottom of Ed’s attitude to life. He spends a day visiting his family in Sheffield but is back in capital by nightfall, making us wonder what his real relationship with his family is like. The visit seems convivial enough but the specifically mentioned brevity of it leaves us to think all may not be well. Sadly, we do not get any further information as the film ends during Ed’s mini-cab ride home.
But that is probably what stuck with me about the movie. We get to know as much about Ed as he’d presumably give up during the time we know him. His isolation is heightened by the lack of background, we’re forced to take him at face value. Edward Hogg fits this character well. He is equally at ease spitting tirades on the standup circuit, looking tired and drawn on the way back from Sheffield and shrieking in jealous fury to himself in an alleyway, whilst at the same time always looking just normal enough for us to forget that we’re watching a movie.
The more I think about The Comedian, the more I respect the movie. It’s an interesting, grown-up piece that successfully communicates the isolation of modern life in London.
Check out The Comedian trailer here.