"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue

Katrin Cartlidge

03 Oct 2002

Colm Meaney and Katrin Cartlidge from "Claire Dolan" by Lodge Kerrigan
I first saw Katrin Cartlidge in Mike Leigh's 1993 film, "Naked" with David Thewlis. Cartlidge plays the roommate of  Thewlis' girlfriend. Don't get the impression from this dismal description that  it was a small part; she has a lot of screen time, and for most of it, she pulls of the astounding trick of delivering dialog cleanly and clearly, despite mumbling. Not since Dustin Hoffman or maybe Senor Wences have I seen anyone say so much without moving her lips. The character had a straight-ahead intensity and drive that compelled you to watch.

Next, I saw her in Lars von Trier's film "Breaking The Waves", the first film I saw at the 1996 Toronto Film Festival. She and Stellan Skarsgård were there after the film to take questions from the audience and to say a few words. I made some notes at the time, starting with a bit of comedy about the Dogma style of filmmaking which Trier espouses (no lights, hand-held camera). Here's what I wrote down:

Mom's comment to me earlier was, "I bet you're going because of the hand-held camera." Not really. Memories of the opening scene of "Husband's and Wives" still makes my stomach lurch. Of the camera, Katrin said that it was initially odd. With a stationary camera, you're always trying to forget it's there, but with a hand-held, it gives you (the viewer) a sense of being there, and a documentary flavour. She was once bonked on the head by the camera, so it couldn't have been easy to ignore (on set). In fact, she said, it was disconcerting when the camera was on you and it panned away when you were in the middle of saying something -- a bit like talking to someone and having them walk off in the middle.

And then there was "Career Girls", another Mike Leigh film about two college pals who reunite after ten years. Rapid, clever patter streams from Kartlidge's mouth the whole time, and it's nothing short of fabulous. The movie is heavily steeped in the 1980s, the decade when I allegedly grew up, so perhaps I'm projecting a bit of myself into the film, but nonetheless  it's a solid character study which no one has seen.

The last film I saw her in was "From Hell", a patently dismal flick about Jack The Ripper, starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. Cartlidge plays a prostitute. This is a small role, but if there's one reason to see this film, she's it, in the same way that  Michael Gambon was the only excuse to see the otherwise dreadful "Mary Reilly" (or at least the 5 minutes he was on screen). Ick. Maybe I'll just leave this film alone, and instead urge you to go rent "Career Girls" and watch it at your earliest convenience. In fact, I think I might nip downstairs right now and do the same myself. Join me, won't you?