It’s common for movie directors to blend movie genres, and it’s always intriguing when they blend fictional elements with real life documentary footage. So Bodkin Ras is immediately appealing, just for its docu-fiction hybrid alone.
Director Kaweh Modiri takes the real life locals of a Scottish town, Forres, and throws in actor Sohrab Bayat; a Dutch-Iranian who is seemingly fleeing a crime-gone-wrong in his homeland. As he settles in amongst the suspicious locals, he eventually begins to form relationships with those around him, particularly with local fence builder Eddie Paton and London-native Lily Szramko. James “Red” MacMillan serves as the film’s narrator, appearing on screen at intervals to discuss his violent past and provide his philosophical yet blackened view of the world.
The movie has a very watchable quality to it, and it’s unsurprising that the film did well on the festival circuit as it will very much satisfy the indie market. The cinematography makes the film all the more visually satisfying, even if its surrounding elements make for a more conflicting, troubled end product.
The idea of docu-fiction has been tackled before, and superbly at that. 20,000 Days on Earth, the Nick Cave feature, is perhaps the best example of this stellar hybrid in recent years. In the case of Bodkin Ras, Modiri doesn’t quite reach those same heights.
Bayat’s mysterious, lone-drifter narrative is interesting at first, but it begins to lose traction when we meet the locals and begin to learn about their real-life troubles. Eddie Paton, in particular, has a heartbreaking tale. The suicides of his two sons have left him feeling suicidal and broken, issues that he attempts to heal with an alcohol addiction. And whilst Paton’s tale is moving, almost to the point of tears at time, the movie then undercuts the emotion by reverting back to the far less captivating and emotive crime narrative.
There is also the issue of Lily. She’s introduced as a non-fictional character, but then her romantic involvement with Bayat’s Bodkin casts that entirely in doubt. It’s impossible to know how credible a character Lily is, and ultimately she feels as if she’s really a fictional character. Her relationship with Bodkin also reaches a jarring crescendo in the film’s closing moments in a scene which is totally out-of-place and leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
But it is the focus on the Scottish natives that really makes the movie as memorable as it is. Red’s narration brings in a deeper layer of meaning and thought, and again you begin to see the troubled lives these Scottish men have and the ways in which they have to cope. Alcoholism and violence appear to be Red’s vices, and the movie would have been far more interesting and developed if Modiri spent more time with the locals than on a storyline which ultimately leads to nothing.
Bodkin Ras just about manages to work in its flawed attempt of hybrid moviemaking, and its unusual premise and attractive cinematography will be enough to satisfy lovers of indie film. However, there it leaves a lot to be desired, and one can only think how much better this film would have been if director Modiri had focussed on the more sincere and emotive elements of his docudrama.
Dir: Kaweh Modiri
Scr: Kaweh Modiri
Cast: Sohrab Bayat, Eddie Paton, Lily Szramko
Prd: Raymond van der Kaaij
DOP: Daan Nieuwenhuijs
Music: Moshen Namjoo
Run Time: 79 minutes