FNE at Berlinale 2014: Competition: Boyhood

    Boyhood by Richard Linklater Boyhood by Richard Linklater

    BERLIN: Director Richard Linklater arrives in Berlin with the totally unique Boyhood, a feature film that he created by filming the same actors every year for 12 years. Boyhood enables the audience to watch a young boy, Mason, played by young actor Ellar Coltrane, grow up on screen as Linklater filmed him from the age of six until his graduation from high school and heads off for college.

    The result is a profound cinematic experience.

    But despite all its realism this is not a documentary. Mason’s mother is played by Patricia Arquette and his freaky father is played by Ethan Hawke. Mason’s annoying sister is played by Linklater’s own daughter Lorelei.

    Speaking at the press conference Linklater said that he has worked with Hawke before and as soon as he proposed the project to him Hawke agreed because it was so unusual. As for Arquette he said that he called the actress up and said: “What are you planning to be doing 12 years from now.”

    The story of the film avoids cheap shots and artificial drama allowing the cumulative effect of following Mason’s life through the normal pattern of growing up and the traumas of his mother’s divorce, moving away from his childhood home and other events that most kids experience to create their own drama. The reappearance of his father in his life played by Ethan Hawke after his parents divorce and the possibility that his parents might get back together might well have developed into a dramatic storyline. But Linklater doesn’t allow this to happen and life moves along for Mason as it does for so many kids with his mother finding and marrying and leaving other men who never seem to really work out.

    Linklater said that he wanted to find a way to tell a story about the maturation process during the period of first to 12th grade that we all go through and that is such a big part of everyone’s lives in America. “I wanted to capture how time unfolds.” Both the boy and the girl in the film actually grow up on camera.

    There was an architecture rather than a script he said and the film evolved as the world in which his characters live evolved during the filming including the election of Barack Obama and other events that could not have been predicted when he started shooting the film. He said he had had two more children of his own during the 12 years of shooting the film and Patricia Arquette said she had married, had a child of her own and divorced while Linklater was shooting.

    “It’s a picture about kids growing up, but I guess it’s also about adults bumbling through parenthood,” he said.

    The young actors were not allowed to see any of the materials that were shot until the film was totally finished and Ellar Coltraine speaking during the press conference said that he became rather self-conscious when he started to hit puberty and that it would have been difficult to have watched himself during the process of filming. Lorelei, Linklater’s daughter, said that it was quite difficult and sometimes painful to see herself in the film when she was finally allowed to see it.

    Linklater has created a unique experience that somehow captures the essence of growing up in America.   In a way he has achieved the same goal as Terrence Malik with his Tree of Life in a totally different way. One wonders if as with The Tree of Life the European audience will be less able to relate to Linklater’s profound story of growing up in America than American audiences. This is a film that has to be felt as much as seen.

    Director: Richard Linklater


    CAST: Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Ellar Coltrane, Lorelei Linklater