LFF 2020: Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 38 minutes, Director – Caroline Catz

Docudrama blending discovered tapes and recreations of influential, experimental sound designer and musician Delia Derbyshire (Caroline Catz) as she works in the BBC basement.

Delia Derbyshire is perhaps best known for creating the iconic theme to Doctor Who. However, the aim of Caroline Catz’s docudrama on Derbyshire is to highlight her experimental, forward-thinking nature as a sound designed and musician. Working her way up through BBC rankings, although seemingly staying stuck in the cramped basement with all the sound equipment, there’s plenty to delve into when it comes to her creations. The more documentary leanings of the piece look into just this, using discovered tapes, recordings and diaries of the titular subject to get a picture of her creativity and innovative musical style. Meanwhile, the dramatised elements look more into Derbyshire’s personal life, trying to be heard and facing competition within a mid-20th Century BBC.

As the film progresses it certainly seems to focus more on the reimagined side of Derbyshire’s life (Derbyshire played by writer-director Catz, who appears to have truly put herself into the mindset of the figure her piece focuses on). While starting off as engaging and interesting, particularly capturing the slight imagination of the viewer when paired with the documentary-based moments, the more the drama comes into the play the more it begins to feel like a one-off BBC drama. This is no bad thing, it still works and keeps the viewer engaged. However, as it progresses the feeling arises that it could possibly be better digested in 30 minute chunks, rather than as a complete 98 minute film.

You wish for more of the experimental elements to play a bigger part, to become more of the focus – such moments truly feel reflective of the image of Derbyshire that the film creates. To start with there’s a shared tone and feeling that gets her mindset across to the viewer and adds something to the film, giving it a further layer of detail and engagement for those watching. However, as the film fades away into the drama it appears to lose what it was beforehand and becomes slightly more generic, losing the attention of the viewer along with it. A shame for something that starts out, much like Derbyshire herself, as something rather experimental, made more engaging and interesting because of the personal dash that runs throughout it.

This look into the work of Delia Derbyshire starts off as a seemingly personal, experimental look to match her music. However, it seems to lose something as it delves further into it’s gradually less-effective dramatic elements.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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