DIR/WRI: Seamus Murphy
The opening scenes of A Dog Called Money brings into focus a scruffy, impish boy with button nose pressed against the window of a car as it stalls along a chaotic, noise-filled street. Viewers are locked inside that same car, witnessing the playful mischievousness of the child as his gaze fixes on the watchers. A sequence of emotions plays out across the boy’s face ranging from curiosity to marvel to a wider concept of inquisitiveness. So begins the stunning ode to director Seamus Murphy’s métier and PJ Harvey’s collaborative genius.
Seamus Murphy is an award-winning photographer and director with an acute sense of observation – one that is intensely and sensitively connected to the wonders of the human condition. It is no accident that Murphy’s alliance with PJ Harvey became such a serendipitous perfect storm. PJ Harvey in turn, is an artist who is not afraid of pushing change in order to effect creative growth. This made for an ideal partnership between the two.
The model was conceived in order to lend PJ Harvey an apt conduit with which to record her 2016 album, The Hope Six Demolition Project. A room within a room was constructed inside Somerset House (styled on its website as ‘an experimental workspace for artists, makers and thinkers’). The interior room was soundproofed and had windows facing into the space, through which invited members of the public could look through but Harvey and her band could neither see nor hear the people watching them. It allowed the creative process to unfold at its own pace and on a level where Harvey overlooked the fact that she was being scrutinised. One of the conditions for those observing the installation, was that they relinquished recording equipment, phones and cameras and simply subsumed the experience.
In psychology, there is a phenomenon known as the Observer Effect whereby changes in the behaviour of subjects comes about when they become aware they are being watched. Performers amend their actions when in front of an audience. At the onset, this could be said of the ‘viewed’ recording – however, as time passes, Harvey and her band lose sight of being observed – their behaviour becomes steadily more creative and achieves greater heights as they truly enter into maximum flow.
Seamus Murphy and PJ Harvey travelled to Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Washington D.C., where Harvey interacted with the people she met and Murphy filmed the process. What ensues is a mesh of originality and imagination – from the exuberant rappers in Washington D.C., narrating their story with wit and humour, to the people of Kosovo and musicians from Afghanistan – seeing and communicating as they weave their tales through music and words. Beginning with opening scenes during which viewers are witnessed and perceived, the journey of A Dog Called Money is that of a dazzling tangible manifestation – a type of chimeric blending as differences and processes fuse together in a genesis of beauty.
Harvey and Murphy are the fasteners that suture and sew this beautiful construct. One with words, the other with images – carving an alliance that benefits and unifies, ultimately bringing forth its own potent and unique creation.
This is a documentary well worth viewing.
15A (see IFCO for details)
A Dog Called Money is released 22nd November 2019