Unbound (2013)
Scenes from the life of Mary Shelley.

USA, 2013, color, sound, 16mm orig, DV edit, 69 min

In Rome for a year at the American Academy, I created imaginary home movies of scenes from the life of Mary and Percy Shelley. I
was attracted to these authors — their life of poetry, politics and sexual invention—and inspired by my previous fictionalizing of
home movies in Covert Action and The Future is Behind You. I worked with non-actors, the seasons and the extraordinary architecture
and landscapes of Italy where the Shelleys were in exile for six of
their eight years together.

The result was a feature film A Shape of Error, gorgeous, emotional and harnessed to the narrative. I wanted to go further and abetted by digital technology, I have ‘exploded’ the film. The result is UNBOUND, digressive, looped, unpredictable, symphonic, spontaneous, messy—like life and memory.

2012: Rotterdam Film Festival; CCCB (Center of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona) Spain; BIM (Bienal de la Imagen en Movimiento), Argentina; Starz Denver Film Festival • Directors’ Pick; 2013; The Indie Fest, La Jolla Cal • Award of Excellence; Keats Shelley House, Rome, co-sponsored by The American Academy in Rome; Seattle Film Festival; Anthology Film Archive NYC; Best of 2014” Curator Lists from La Furia Umana, Italy;

“I needed only two minutes to embrace this wonderful movie as one of THE highlights of this year’s Rotterdam festival [2012]. Abigail Child has created a totally unique way of telling her story. The main role is the voice over of Mary Shelley which is a delight on its own. " I was not yet in love, but in love with love itself, so I needed to find something to love.... The image itself remains without the usual sound and spoken word. Not only do the images have no sound, they also are frequently shot from positions that could have been taken by one of the participants, for instance, yourself. As a result the images strongly resemble memory. And indeed, after a while my brain stopped interpreting the images as being generated by film and started to see them as real memories. Memories I couldn't possibly have... In the end I not only re-lived the life of Mary Shelley but also re-lived a life of my own, a life I didn't know I had. If this is what the Abigail meant with reshaping the way we look at things, she did a hell of a job, equally as good and with as much genius, as the imagination of her subject. You still have two more chances to see this miracle, don't wait till next life!” — Erik Von Goch, Rotterdam

“so exuberant, so visually gorgeous… ahead of the curve …hybrid, mixing narrative, avantgarde and expanded cinema. ….I loved…..the swish pan of tree tops and the backwards fireworks; the hallway images of the pregnant Claire. And it's shot in film! … one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences I've had in a long, long time…”
— Tina Wasserman

“…it [A Shape of Error] made me think of Greenaway as well as Sally Potter and Derek Jarman, all three of them moving among these different types of filmmaking. ….You took me back to the sunstruck crushed-velvet early 1970s, where I lolled and loved and lusted with just these sort of people, though studiously avoiding getting anybody pregnant…” — Michael Walsh, Professor, Hartford University.

“The legacy of the Romantics is a contested inheritance, too often claimed on strictly aesthetic terms; Abigail Child knows better, and her new film reminds us of just how deeply the Shelleys and their circle committed themselves as test subjects for their own political ideals. Setting the drama of their own lives against events of world-historical significance, A Shape of Error is at once a mischievous scuttling of BBC costume drama and the creative anachronism of home movies before the invention of film. The results are of a kind that only Child could achieve: a playful mastery of form, and never-wavering attention to the past’s connection with the present.”
— Jim Supanick

Distribution Sources

Watch it on Vimeo On Demand: