Lovers Rock, Steve McQueen’s second film in the “Small Axe” collection, airs on BBC One from November 22, and on Amazon Prime Video from November 27. Set in 1980s London, this barely over an hour-long film will transport you into a house party, making you feel as if you were dancing too in the space depicted onscreen.
Lovers Rock is a fictional story set sometime in 1980s London. A woman has climbed out of her window, all dressed up, and meets her friend by the playground to catch the bus together. Women are cooking goat curry and rice in a kitchen, singing together. Men are emptying a room and installing a sound system. They are all preparing for tonight’s big event: a house party.
Lovers Rock is about the Blues party culture of the 1980s in the West Indian community of London.
Martha, played by Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn, is the young woman sneaking out of her house to go to the party with her friend Patty, played by Shaniqua Okwok. When the two girls arrive at the house, they stick together, dancing with each other, as they do not seem to know anyone else there. Martha, though, soon meets Franklyn, played by Micheal Ward, and forgets her friend Patty, who decides to go home early. Martha and Franklyn are caught in a dance of seduction that lasts all night.
The story of Martha and Franklyn is just a thinly laid thread to the film. Lovers Rock is really about capturing a moment, that moment when a group of people, mostly strangers, get together and dance to the same beat and rhythm. The chance meetings, good and bad, that happen on such nights. Moments when you wish a particular song wouldn’t end.
One of the most striking scenes in McQueen’s film—which according to the director was entirely improvised by the actors and not scripted—sees the whole dancefloor continuing Janet Kay’s 1979 hit “Silly Games” by singing it a cappella after the music stops. It is in these moments that the artist reveals himself the most. McQueen is here able to capture the rapture of music, its hypnotic power on the body.
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This is what is most enthralling about Lovers Rock, the way that it immerses the viewer within that dancefloor. Director of photography Shabier Kirchner’s camera always stays right in the middle, in-between the dancers following their moves choreographed by Coral Messam, focusing on telling details, such as the ritual of hands reaching for women’s arms, at the beginning of the film, to invite them to slow dance. There’s a tactility to the images in the way that the camera stays close to couples dancing, emphasizing the sensuality in their slow movement. In a way, this is what makes the film feel so intense too.
Racism and violence, however, also looms in the film. The young people at the party are able to let go of their inhibition, but outside the house party racism is still very much there.
McQueen and co-screenwriter Courttia Newland say they were mainly inspired by their own memories of such parties in the 1980s. “Courttia’s mother used to have parties at his house, so he remembered a lot of stuff as a child. I came to it through my aunt,” McQueen says.
According to Executive producer Tracey Scoffield, Lovers Rock is “a collective reimagining of a time and place very precious to West Indian Londoners.” For McQueen, the film is about celebrating Black culture. “For me, this is my musical. This is the musical I’ve always wanted to do. And with Courttia’s history and my history, it was a great collaboration.”
Lasting just over one-hour long, Lovers Rock has an almost hypnotic effect on its viewers, making a film about a house party into a sensory experience.
Source: Forbes – Business