The Artist and The Wall of Death

#Review: The Artist and The Wall of Death

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What drives someone to risk life and limb in pursuit of an obsession? To court serious injury or even death for no reward except the accomplishment itself? Some would say the act of doing is the reward. For Glaswegian artist Steven Strynka it certainly appears to be that chasing his dreams is as important a goal for him as actually finding any form of quantifiable success, but at what point does a person have to step back and take stock of the cost of their actions?  

Maurice O Brien’s latest exploratory documentary follows Steven on a years-long journey to build, master and transform a Wall of Death show into something more, a form of art not yet seen or done. Narrating the early part of his life and how he developed his obsession with the Wall of Death stunt show it becomes apparent that Steven has very little regard for financial gain or even financial sustenance and this appears to have had an impact on his life in a multitude of ways. How this will play out during the course of the film is one of the more dramatic elements of a fascinating look at an obviously flawed individual. 

While the Wall of Death stunt show itself is the focus of Steven’s ambition it’s really only window dressing for the film, a way for him to channel his work and his wants into some tangible project. We get to meet a community of others for whom the Wall of Death is a way of life or a dream once passed, people for whom you come to realise have a more genuine affection for the purity of the feat. 

Chronicling a number of years prior to Covid and then into the pandemic itself, the documentary is at its best when others flit in and out of Steven’s story, exploring their relationships and fractious friendships. Though Steven undoubtedly doesn’t see himself as a villain it’s hard to argue that he’s a wholly virtuous protagonist either, willing as he is to use others to further his own plans and to get his grand stage built at any cost. 

The Artist and The Wall of Death gives us an insight into the eccentricities that go hand in hand with creating art and the human cost sometimes involved. It’s a bit of a bumpy and uneven ride but ultimately provides some reward in taking the journey. 

Direction – 3

Cinematography – 3.5

Acting – 2.5

Screenplay – 3.5

Score – 3

Overall – 3

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