The Projector presents a fresh selection of films this month, one of them being offbeat comedy – FRANK. Named after the mysterious and enigmatic protagonist, the film is narrated through the eyes of a young wannabe musician, Jon (Domhnall Gleeson), who joins an avant-garde pop band called The Soronprfbs. It is led by Frank (Michael Fassbender), a musical genius who hides himself inside a large fake head.
Directed by acclaimed Irish director Lenny Abrahamson and written by Jon Ronson and Peter Straughan, FRANK is based on the memoir by Jon Ronson. It is a fictional story loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom, the persona of cult musician and comedy legend Chris Sievey, as well as other outsider musicians like Daniel Johnston and Captain Beefheart.
From the writing to the casting, and depth of the characters, FRANK paints unconventionalism brilliantly with a strange humour that makes you rediscover your sense of humour. The Soronprfbs no doubt belongs to the world of alternative music and it can only be described as gifted, ramshackle and barely functioning.
Fronting the band is Frank, an unstable yet charismatic musical savant, who can seemingly change lives. His closest musical collaborator is the forbidding Clara (Maggie Gyllenhaal); part caretaker, part jailer, Clara is the antithesis of all things mainstream.
The band is completed by Nana (Carla Azar), a Moe Tucker-like drummer, and Baraque (Francois Civil), a beautiful Frenchman who plays bass. Jon joins the band as a replacement keyboard player after the band’s original keyboardist is hospitalized following an attempt at drowning himself. This is the big break that he has been dreaming and waiting for.
In his head, Jon’s is a true creative, a maverick musical force; in reality he’s a very ordinary young man trying to escape his hum-drum, small-town life. While it was easy to empathise with Jon and his musical struggles in the beginning of the film, our feelings for him evolved as he fights for power within the band and eventually comes close to destroying the thing he has loved.
“Jon disturbs the band’s perfect equilibrium,” explains Producer Ed Guiney. “He’s got more worldly ambitions – he wants to be a rock star. That desire rubs up against a group of artists who are happy making music for its own sake, so there are two opposing creative drives.”
Michael Fassbender further elaborates, “Jon finds Frank really intriguing and mysterious and in a way so free. Jon is so lost in trying to find who he is as a musician and he sees an experimental and free performer in Frank and he looks up to him. In a way Jon wants to own Frank and that becomes a battle with Clara.”
It’s not all drama; the cartoonish head brings home a message that we can all relate to.
“For me, FRANK is a film about connections and what it means to connect,” says Maggie Gyllenhaal. “When you’re around someone wearing a giant head it makes you question what it means to connect, how important and how terrifying it is, and about the part making art plays in that. Jon just wants to play music that a lot of people will relate to and that’s not in the band’s nature. Clara, in particular, knows how much you have to sacrifice to do that. There’s a different kind of connection made by making something that’s so specific and particular that maybe only a few people connect to it.”
Catch FRANK at The Projector.