Magazine article Psychology Today

Boyhood Wonder

Magazine article Psychology Today

Boyhood Wonder

Article excerpt

RICHARD LINKLATER'S BOLDEST FILMMAKING EXPERIMENT YET REQUIRED AN UNPRECEDENTED TWELVE YEARS OF SHOOTING, by Gary Drevitch

WE EXPECT THE protagonists in a well-made film to mature and change. But Mason, the main character in Richard Linklater's new movie, Boyhood, literally grows up before our eyes.

In a radical approach to narrative filmmaking, Linklater, who is perhaps best known for films that unfold in nearreal time, lik e Dazed and Confused (1993) and Before Sunrise (1995), shot Boyhood in short bursts over 12 years-though with just 39 days of actual filming.

During that time, Mason, portrayed by Ellar Coltrane, who was cast at age 6 by Linklater, grows from a dreamy grade-schooler to a confused teen and, ultimately, a hopeful collegian, under the sometimes less-than-watchful eyes of his parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) and sister (the director's daughter, Lorelei). For the viewer, it's a heady experience that evokes our own childhoods and forces us to contemplate our journeys to adulthood. For Linklater, "Itwasn't about the trick. I felt there was a great possibility to actually feel something about life and time and all of our stories."

A LOT OF PEOPLE SEE BOYHOOD AS AN EXPERIMENT IN FILMMAKING. WAS THIS A STORY YOU FELT YOU HAD TO TELL OR A METHOD YOU HAD TO TRY?

I think it's both. I've spent my filmmaking life trying to explore the boundaries of narrative and storytelling in my own way. I'm always asking, Why can't a story do that? What are the possibilities of cinematic storytelling? I've thought about this for 30 years-at the time of Boyhood's inception, it had been 18 or 20 years. My Boyhood problem was how to tell a story about childhood when I didn't want just one little moment of it-I wanted to tell a story about all of it. That presents an obvious problem: How do you deal with the restrictions? The idea to get rid of the restrictions by filming a little bit every year probably came about unconsciously by just havi ng thought about the parameters of storytelling in general for so long. No "Aha!" moments come out of nowhere.

THERE'S INHERENT RISK IN THIS FIL M-YOUR STAR COULD HAVE WALKED AWAY AT ANY TIME, FOR ONE THING.

The whole thing was kind of risky but no more than life in general, where in any relationship you form, people can walk away-their life can change, there can be the phone call with the tragic news, anything can happen. I felt this would be a fun ongoing art project that would be worthwhile for everyone involved and fun for the cast and crew to keep coming back to. That's how I see life to some degree-as a big artistic project. So it was easy for artists to come aboard. It was an impractical idea, of course-that's why our budget was so low. But everyone who got involved thought, Oh, what a cool idea, and not, Oh, I might be a different person eight years from now and want to quit. Everyone involved was all in for the 12 years.

WE MEETTHE MAIN CHARACTER AS A LITTLE BOY PLAYING IN THE DIRT. LATER. THAT SAME BOY. THAT SAME ACTOR, ISATEEN ASKING, "SO WHAT'STHE POINT?" WHAT ARE YOU HOPING PEOPLE TAKE FROM THAT?

The way cinema works on people, I felt that if you just put in that time with this family and particularly this kid, you'd be invested. We just naturally do it-it's the way humans perceive stories. We invest in the lead characters. We care about them. …

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