Kristin Kreuk and Adam Sinclair star in “Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy,” the film adaptation a novella by “Trainspotting” writer Irvine Welsh, telling a tale of love and drugs on the Edinburgh club scene, which will be screened at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival next week. — Submitted photo
When it came to recreating the dark recesses of Edinburgh’s club scene on film, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., was as good a place as any.
Maybe even better than most, says Scottish writer Irvine Welsh.
“Sault Ste. Marie has got all this great European-style architecture, so it worked out OK,” he explains.
Welsh, bestselling author of “Trainspotting” and a number of other often-controversial books, many of them telling tales of club culture and drug addiction, is hoping to come to St. John’s next week for a screening of “Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy” at the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.
The film, directed by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Rob Heydon, is the screen adaptation of the last tale in Welsh’s three-novella collection, “Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance.”
It’s been in the making for about 10 years, battling rewrites, funding issues, a lead actress who developed cancer and other hurdles.
Starring Scottish actor Adam Sinclair and Canadian actress Kristin Kreuk (known for playing Lana Lang on the TV series “Smallville”), “Ecstasy” was filmed mostly in Sault Ste. Marie, with scenery and exterior shots filmed in Edinburgh.
It’s similar to “Trainspotting” in themes of club life and drugs — this time ecstasy instead of heroin — but deals primarily with the theme of love, and whether or not it’s simply a matter of chemicals.
“It’s basically about an irresponsible Scotsman called Lloyd who’s probably getting a bit too old for the scene he’s in,” Welsh says. “He likes to go out partying and hanging out with his mates and taking loads of Ecstasy and just doing the kind of things you tend to do when you get enmeshed in that scene, basically just forgetting about anything else and as long as you’ve got a posse and some pills for the weeks, everything’s fine.
“He’s at an age where he feels this can’t go on forever because he’s older than most of the people in the nightclub. He falls for this woman called Heather who’s Scottish in the book but Canadian in the film, and she’s coming from a different point of view: she’s coming out of this terrible relationship which has been the opposite of his — it’s been a really boring sort of thing, and she's looking for a bit of excitement in her life. She also wants a guy who, when it comes down to it, can commit. Lloyd’s not really that guy; he’s a bit of a mess and he’s involved in all sorts of drug deals. It’s an attraction of opposites.”
Welsh, a former DJ and nightclub manager, says he chose to write many of his drug-themed works at a time when nobody else was.
“Everybody was taking them, but nobody was writing about them, and it was kind of strange to me. It was like writing about a kind of rural life without writing about skies and mountains and hills and that sort of thing.
“I was surprised that nobody else was talking about all this stuff that I’d been experiencing and going through and watching all these other people experiencing and going through. I just wanted to write about what I was seeing around me.”
The theatrical and film versions of Welsh’s books have seen global success, and the 1996 movie version of “Trainspotting,” which starred Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle, has become a cult favourite.
Welsh appeared in “Trainspotting” and had a role in “Ecstasy,” as well, as an anti-drug businessman, but his scene didn’t make the final cut.
He finds his written words take on more power once they’re adapted for the stage and screen.
“When the actors start to bring it to three-dimensional life, it’s really quite staggering,” he says. “I actually think (‘Ecstasy’) works better onstage and on the screen than it does on the page. I think it needed that kind of touch to it; I think it really works better as a drama. I think it’s probably meant to be a film or a stage play.”
Welsh says “Ecstasy” will do the Canadian film festival circuit first, before making the rounds of the American and European ones next year.
Filming is set to begin on “Filth,” another film adaptation of a Welsh novel that’s been years coming, in Los Angeles in January, he says.
St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival chairwoman and founder Noreen Golfman says the festival is thrilled to be showing the film.
The screening will take place at Empire Theatres as a presentation of MUN Cinema Thursday at 7 p.m.
“‘Ecstasy’ artfully extends Welsh’s frenetic pacing about drug culture in ‘Trainspotting’ to present-day Edinburgh. This feature is perfect film festival material — lively and entertaining, well-crafted and powerfully alive. We are really honoured to be the film’s launching pad,” Golfman says.
It’s a year of broken records for the film festival, which received a record number of 468 submissions — 277 of them from international filmmakers — this year.
Between Oct. 18-22, the festival will screen 80 of them, including a new record of 17 that were written, produced and/or directed by local residents.
The main local highlight at the festival this year will be the world premiere of “Beatdown,” the story of a teenage girl with pro-wrestling aspirations, written and directed by Deanne Foley of St. John’s, filmed in St. John’s, and starring Marthe Bernard, Mark O’Brien and Robb Wells.
“Miss Representation,” also an official selection of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, is a recent addition to the local screenings, and will be shown at the LSPU Hall Friday at 3:30 p.m. Examining the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in the United States, the documentary has appearances by Cory Booker, Margaret Cho, Katie Couric, Geena Davis, Rosario Dawson, Jane Fonda and others.
“We all know the media has a lot to answer for, and you don’t have to watch beer commercials to know that women are routinely objectified in visual culture,” Golfman said. “The St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival is very excited to be showcasing one of the strongest documentaries that played at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It’s as if the film were made just for us. By featuring the film at our own festival, we can carry its perspective forward. The famous women who speak truth to power in this film are so smart and lively— you feel as if they are talking directly to us here in St John’s.”
Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion about the film and about women in media with “Republic of Doyle” actress Lynda Boyd and Natalie Beausoleil, body image expert and associate professor of social science and health at MUN medical school.
“Sarabah,” an award-winning documentary, will be screened at the Masonic Temple Oct. 22. The film follows Senegalese hip-hop artist Sister Fa, an outspoken critic of female genital mutilation, of which she was a victim as a child, as she returns to Senegal, where she risks offending people in her home village with her messages of empowerment.
Sister Fa will come to town for the film festival, and will perform at the Majestic Theatre Oct. 20, joined by local band The Discounts. Admission is $10.
“To now have Sister Fa on her way to St. John’s to play a show in conjunction with her screening is far, far beyond anything I even thought possible for the festival. We’re all just blown away,” said Kelly Davis, the festival’s executive director.
The film festival will end Oct. 22 with a closing night gala, including screenings of “Decoloured,” the first film by local filmmaker Allison White, and “Regarding Our Father,” a documentary by John and Marjorie Doyle about their businessman father Gerald S. Doyle, at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre at 8 p.m.
Ticket information for festival events as well as a full schedule of screenings are available online at womensfilmfestival.com.