4×4 Interview: Love & Guns in Brick Lane

Eyes (butler.corey) 674 x 280

Elliot Cumbersmith’s 20-minute film, Windows 2 the Soul: Love & Guns in Brick Lane, was produced for the art-house market and quickly graduated to cult classic. Now, five months on, it’s becoming a surprising mainstream hit. Kathryn & Nick talk to the 22-year-old writer and director about his breakthrough success.

Nick: What’s so different about your new film?

Elliot: The press has made a lot of the fact that my actors are only shot from the nose up, but this is just  my vehicle to tell a very powerful story. This is a gritty east end crime thriller, a heist movie unlike any you’ve ever seen before. There is some extremely intense sex, violence that makes you sick and explosions that send a shiver down your spine. It follows a rich tradition laid down by John Mackenzie, Guy Richie and Nick Love. It’s got great action scenes, great dialogue and great characters… and because of the way it is filmed you really feel like you’re taking part in the story. When I speak to people I always look into their eyes… it is people’s eyes that really resonate.

Kathryn: Doesn’t the way it’s shot make it hard for the audience to get what’s going on?

Elliot: Yes, but it is the life-like confusion that makes this film so beautiful. All the viewer sees is incredible close ups. My cast deliver the most powerful emotions and situations through their eyes, eyebrows, cheeks and brows. The shear intensity that’s unleashed when you hide the mouth is beyond words. All of the action is portrayed through the faces alone. When one of the character’s gets shot, or realises their true feelings for another human being, you can feel it like a punch in the gut.  The plot is shown, rather than told; you are at one with the characters. This has drawn comparisons to both Beckett and Tarantino, which no young writer/ director could object to.

Nick: The film’s grossed over £60 million, were you surprised by the level of success?

Elliot: Yes and no. We were a low budget independent with a limited release in a few fringe art house venues. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done, and I was proud of getting the limited release. But the cream will always rise to the top, and word spread about we’d done and we rapidly gained a cult following in London and Edinburgh. A few months later, Warner came knocking and suddenly we’re showing in major chains up and down the country, in the USA, Europe. I always knew we could appeal to a bigger audience, but unfortunately films like ours don’t often reach them. It’s all about money these days, art comes second, if at all.

Kathryn: The critics haven’t been particularly kind to it, how do you deal with that?

Elliot: It can be hard, but I know I’ve invented a new genre and people want to see it. If the critics want to write it off as a joke or a gimmick, then this is probably a problem they have within themselves. This device allows me to tell stories in an innovative new way. I already have plans for my next film, which will use the same device to depict a 30-minute horror story set in Dalston. I challenge you: look into my actors’ eyes, hear what they do with my words and you’ll be moved by the raw power and beauty. Who needs full shots? A simple glimpse of a philtrum can sock you between the eyes.  This film can change your life.

Windows 2 the Soul: Love & Guns in Brick Lane is now showing at cinemas nationwide

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