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THE CICERONES - 2003

By Mark Clapham

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REVIEW OF THE SHORT FILM

The directorial debut by Jeremy Dyson, best known as the non-performing member of surreal comedy troupe The League of Gentlemen, harks back to the much-missed ghost stories that British Television used to excel at. The opening shot, for instance, is reminiscent of The Signalman, a very effective entry in the Ghost Stories for Christmas series, while the low-key ambience and period setting recalls many other entries in the series. Itís a comparison that Dyson would no doubt be pleased with Ė when he and star (fellow League member) Mark Gatiss took to the stage to introduce the short at FrightFest, they acknowledged the debt to those ghost stories, and clearly hoped that The Cicerones might act as some kind of pilot to reintroduce the genre to British screens.

Itís a worthy ambition, and the film is impressively shot by Dyson, making fine use of lighting and employing some interesting angles. The story is simple enough; an Englishman abroad (Gatiss) visits a cathedral in unspecified parts, looking for a masterpiece of religious art. While his initial interest is enthusiastically academic, the series of surreal figures who guide him around the cathedralís darkened spaces fill him with the sense of awe and fear of these religious works that he so completely lacks. As the experience becomes more heightened, the tourist begins to fear the unearthly nature of his guides, his pragmatic self gradually breaking down.

A good little ghost story, then, and the sense of unease at the spiritual matters being discussed is effectively established. The only problem with the film is Gatiss. While he builds the character up well, his style of performance is a little too comedic for the material. A more straightforward lead, less inclined to play on the potential foppishness of the role, would have been a greater aid to building a genuine sense of disquiet. As it is, The Cicerones is a fairly spooky little film, and a welcome example of a genre we see too little of these days.

 


 

 

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