Great Conversations: Gabriel Byrne

Great Conversations: Gabriel Byrne

Back to Gothic. Was Ken Russell’s reputation justified?

Oh yeah, he was very much a moment-to-moment guy. Looking back on it now, he was about taking risks. His notion, which was quite ingenious, was that Byron and Shelley were the Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of their day. He wasn’t comparing them as artists, but was saying that the milieu in which they existed was very much like the ’60s, and that Frankenstein and a lot of their poetry was written under the influence of drugs. A lot of the poets of that time wrote under the influence of opium. So the film had the feel of a modern-day video, and I don’t know if that dates it, or not, but the idea was that the so-called counterculture of the ’60s was nothing new. That environment had been around for a very long time.

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And that raises a bigger question: if movies still have as big a power to influence as they do, what is the ultimate effect of redundant and unimaginative cinema on the public? That’s a question that probably can’t be answered in one sentence, but it’s certainly something I sometimes think about, because what we’ve become addicted to as an audience and what we’ve been given, is an addiction to action, an addiction to sensation. It’s also true of television, where something like Celebrity Big Brother and American Idol have been built to supply sensation after sensation after sensation. There’s nothing in between. There’s only people getting rejected or winning. When you’re addicted to action, there’s no room for any kind of subtlety. Action has affected the pacing of everything.

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