Gypo: Britain's First Dogme Film is Superb
Gypo is the first British Dogme film, but it would be doing this film a great disserve to merely affix a label and look no further. True, Gypo does bear the Dogme95 certification: filmed using only na...
Gypo is the first British Dogme film, but it would be doing this film a great disserve to merely affix a label and look no further.True, Gypo does bear the Dogme95 certification: filmed using only natural light, there is no soundtrack, special effects, or post-production grading. However, the film is also a brilliantly realized look at cultural prejudices and working class family dynamics.
Gypo’s story is deceptively simple— Helen (Pauline McLynn) befriends a Czech refugee, much to the displeasure of her narrow-minded husband Paul (Paul McGann) and family. But taking this simple story, the plot unfolds in three subtle ‘chapters.’ First we see the story through the eyes of Helen, then Paul, and lastly, we get a glimpse into the lives of refugees Tasha (Chloe Sirene), and her mother, played by Rula Lenska.
“If the film works at all, it is because of the calibre of acting,” says writer-director Jan Dunn. “All the dialogue was improvised. It was an unusual script. Basically, it was very tightly scripted because we only had thirteen days to shoot— but the dialogue is spontaneous. The actors were given bullet points for each scene, but other than that they had free reign. I think it gave them a certain amount of freedom.”
With its air of gritty, English small town realism, Gypo lends itself well to the bare bones Dogme format.
“As soon as I had decided on the subject matter, I knew I wanted to shoot it in a pseudo-documentary style, and… suggested to Elaine (Wickham, who co-scripted and produced the film) that we shoot a Dogme film,” Dunn says. “To my surprise, she was extremely excited. We took it very seriously— we went to Copenhagen, and met with Nimbus, who did the Dogme certifying.”
But Dunn has mixed feelings about this adhering to such a strict cinematic formula.
“It’s very liberating, and it’s frustrating. I realized how much I love soundtracks. I had to keep reminding myself, ‘Hitchcock didn’t have a soundtrack in The Birds,” she says laughing.