When, in 2007, J.K. Rowling announced Dumbledore was gay, the internet duly responded (such as this stroke of genius: “While the anagram to ‘Tom Marvolo Riddle’ is ‘I am Lord Voldemort’, ‘Albus Dumbledore’ becomes ‘Male bods rule, bud!”).
Whether or not it was intended, the Harry/Dumbledore queer dynamic is palpable in Seat in Shadow. More eccentric and Glaswegian than its forebear, the film introduces the knock-kneed purple dressing gown-clad Albert (David Sillars, who co-created the story), a washed-up hippie wizard (Albert/Albus, get it?). A part-time artist and part-time psychoanalyst, he channels Carl Jung through his dusty houseplant, between making his own toothpaste out of crushed charcoal and coconut oil.
Intriguing and annoying in equal measure, his artistic practice seems to involve painting black on a pre-existing canvas in an attic studio that does not receive very much light. Mercifully, not everything is confined to this seat in the shadows. Often the film escapes to the imaginative spaces of the Australian outback, offering some light relief from what tends to get quite stuffy.
It is not entirely clear why this environment is a good place for Ben (Jonathan Leslie) to work through his feelings (“I feel a bit sad”), and any careful exploration of rational consciousness or the precise feeling of love is occluded by David C. Liddell’s fancy cinematography. His preoccupation with the interchange of tight closeups confounds the therapy sessions with a sort of predatory tension that tarnishes what could have been a very good film.
A less weighty but more trippy affair than After Louie (and indeed the Harry Potter franchise), Seat in Shadow considers queer culture at the intersection of different generations. The symbiotic doctor-patient relationship is held together by David Sillars’ bizarreness, but occasionally muddled by intrusive camerawork and its gloomy set-pieces.
CAST: David Sillars, Jonathan Leslie, Lee Partridge
DIRECTOR: Henry Coombes
WRITERS: Henry Coombes, David Sillars
SYNOPSIS: Hippie psychotherapist Albert invites troubled youth Ben to his shadowy studio to help get to the root of his troubles.