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Sailing to Success

Beautifully shot and with a star performance from John Hurt, Elfar Adalsteins’ short film Sailcloth could be sailing its way to the Oscars.

I caught a screening of Elfar Adalsteins’ Oscar qualified short film Sailcloth, starring John Hurt, at the London’s W Hotel yesterday, followed by a Q&A with the director and legendary British actor.

The 18 minute gem of a film tells the story of an elderly man who escapes his nursing home to embark on a final journey out to sea and is dedicated to Adalstein’s own grandfather, who died in a nursing home after being there for seven years.

John Hurt in Sailcloth

“The idea came to me a year after he passed away. Possibly I’ve just written an alternative exit for him, a glorious exit,” explained Iceland-born, UK-based director Adalsteins who also wrote and produced the film for his company Berserk Films, shooting entirely in the Cornish town of St Mawes.

Adalsteins wrote the part with John Hurt in mind. “It was fantasy casting gone right. I sent it to John’s agent and a week later I got a phone call saying that he wanted to discuss the script.”

Elfar Adalstein and John Hurt

Ironically, part of the attraction for Hurt was the fact that the film has no dialogue, despite being known for his distinctively gravelly voice. “Here was somebody writing something completely original for the cinema with the use of image on screen being all your information. I read it and thought it could be pure cinema,” said Hurt.

The decision to make Sailcloth dialogue free happened almost by accident. “When I finished it I realised there was no dialogue. And I thought, why add to it? I saw it visually in my head with the emotions and thought we might be able to pull it off without having a word uttered in the film,” explains Adalsteins.

And pull it off he does - with its beautiful score (by Richard Cottle), stunning imagery (by Karl Oskarsson), not to mention a mesmerisingly poignant performance by Hurt, it thoroughly deserves to make the Oscar shortlist in a year when one of the most talked about films has been another silent offering The Artist.

Straight after the screening Hurt was rushing off to attend the Virgin Media Shorts awards ceremony at the BFI, for which he was on the judging panel.

It’s nice to see an actor of Hurt’s calibre lending his support to short film-making, but he is not looking for special praise. “I don’t see it as an act of generosity at all. I’m thrilled to be part of it. Short films are a fantastic breeding ground, the more we can make and the more they are properly appreciated, the better.”

To view the Sailcloth trailer click here

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