Friday, 7 February 2014

Her Master's Voice: Movie Review

Her Master's Voice: Movie Review

Director: Nina Conti

Ventriloquists - chances are that you're either in favour of them or think they're an outdated form of entertainment that's just a little bit cringeworthy. And what happens to the puppets of those who have died?

But, in Her Master's Voice, the likely probability is that you'll end up re-assessing your opinion of the talents involved. This documentary, which played at last year's Doc Edge fest, is getting a much needed wider release.

Starring and directed by Tom Conti's daughter Nina Conti, herself a very popular ventriloquist, takes the bereaved puppets of a former colleague and lover, the British theatre giant Ken Campbell to Venthaven in Kentucky (a resting home for puppets). But along the way, she takes an inward look at herself, her life and her motivations for doing what she does - as well as re-examining and grieving the relationship she had with Campbell.

There's a dark, maudlin edge which permeates part of this self-examining doco and it's one which is a fascinating watch and a reflective piece which offers a fascinating peek into the art form. Through interacting with other ventriloquists at a convention, she begins to realise why she is involved with this art and also celebrates the success she has in it.

Nina has a very modest approach to film-making and it helps her, ironically, find her own voice. Granted, you can be a little cynical at the use of the puppets making comments and interviewing her, but it's a nice device to propel the story along. While many claim the puppets simply voice what their master is too afraid to say, some of what Nina's puppets come out with - especially the deadpan Monkey puppet for which she is known - does occasionally shock as it opens pockets of her psyche that may have stayed hidden.

She's framed some great shots too - a shot of the puppets at Venthaven, all silent, lacking masters and voices is haunting and sad in equal measures as they are the bereaved and left behind. It's an impressive image and one which oozes poignancy before helping Nina to assess her relationship with her former mentor and lover as well as the puppets she works with.

All in all, Her Master's Voice is a fascinating insight into an at times troubled psyche - but one which entertains as much as it probes.


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