h

Under A Kaleidoscope

Once you’ve seen the film Under a Kaleidoscope, a new independent film by writer/director Addison Heath which opens this year’s Melbourne Underground Film Festival, you wonder how actor Kristen Condon got herself into the right frame of mind and emotional state to play some of her scenes. Her character, Beatrice is in a dire situation, physically and psychologically abused while she’s held prisoner by a stand-over guy who’s also a rapist. Beat wants to know how she did it so we ask her: “It’s hard to relate to someone in that situation,” answers Condon. “So you practice substitution – thinking of circumstances in your own life that are relevant to that character; you relate the situation to other circumstances that you might have experienced.”

It’s one thing getting into the right frame of mind but what about getting out of it again – does an actor experience any vicarious trauma when playing someone going through such horrible experiences? We’re thinking of one scene in particular but we don’t want to give anything away. “We shot that scene over the weekend and when I got home I felt fine, but then my muscles started to ache and I ached for days,” Condon tells us. “I stored it in my body for a couple of days.” Interestingly, Beatrice’s final few scenes were the most challenging for Condon. Again, no spoilers, but it’s dramatic. “I felt nothing,” she says. “Absolutely nothing. I didn’t feel angry; I couldn’t get that will happening. But Addison is such a good director; he said to me ‘Beatrice doesn't know how she feels here either; she doesn’t understand what she’s doing.’ And that really helped me with the scene.”
 
Under A Kaleidoscope explores the relationship between Caleb (Kenji Shimada), holed up in his flat because he’s agoraphobic and who spends most of his time dropping acid, and Beatrice, imprisoned in her flat by Rog ‘the Hatchet Man’ Smith, a most unpleasant fellow played by Aston Elliot. “Aston is such a great person to act with,” says Condon. “But in the film he’s so scary. So I almost didn’t really have to act, it was all him. He turns it on, gets right into it and turns it off again in a moment.” The relationship between Beatrice and Caleb  almost does an about turn as the story unfolds. “She’s in this awful situation of her own but she is able to help him,” notes Condon, who trained at Sixteenth Street in Melbourne, in Los Angeles, studying for two years at the John Ruskin School of Acting. “Beatrice becomes Caleb’s protector at the end,” she continues. “The two communicate through a hole in the wall between their flats and their relationship takes an unexpected turn.” Under A Kaleidoscope is a genre-crossing film with some intriguing visuals and the odd moment of entirely unexpected humour, a psychological thriller and a stoner movie in one. And probably a few other things as well. It’s a really good film to have done,” notes Condon.
 
The name ‘Beatrice’ is Heath’s nod to Betty Blue, a 1985 film featuring French actor Béatrice Dalle. In this film Beatrice starts out as a victim but it quickly becomes clear there’s more to her than Caleb’s first impressions suggest. Did Condon have much leeway in terms of developing the character of Beatrice? “As big a window as possible,” she answers. “So much leeway, and so much time to prepare. I don’t always expect that. Sometimes you get on set and you don’t have a second. I love working with Addison He’s amazing, he’s really open-minded. He’s clear, he’s an open book; he will tell you the reasons why he’s chosen this instead of that. I’ve really enjoyed it.” The admiration seems to flow both ways as Condon has acted in previous films by Heath, and he contacted her to play the part of Beatrice in this one. “Addison liked what I did in Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla,” Condon says. “It’s such a great film.” That film was written by Addison Heath and directed by Stewart Simpson, and also stars Aston Elliot as another very dark character.
 
Condon reckons Melbourne’s independent film scene here is a great example of a creative community. “It’s a good little scene. Everybody helps each other; you’re so dependent on other people. We all work together.”
 
Although she started off in visual arts, Condon has been acting professionally since she appeared in the feature The Beautiful and Damned  in 2007, a film which went on to win award at various festivals. As well as appearing the opening film for MUFF, Condon is also in the closing film, Sizzler 77, and makes a couple of appearances in other films in the festival as well. Some of her other work includes Start.Options.Exit, Jugular, Second Coming Volume One, and John Safran Race Relations. She’s in the process of completing a web series, a comedy about an aspiring actor very much lacking in self-awareness.
 
Who does she love to see perform? “US actor Mireille Enos (seen in TV’s Big Love) Julianne Moore. She’s just incredible. I can watch her over and over again. Everything she’s done is brilliant. She’s sublime.”
 
BY LIZA DEZFOULI

Under the Kaleidoscope will open the 2015 Melbourne Underground Film Festival, which will run from Friday September 11 - Saturday September 19 at Howler and Backlot Studios. Grab your tickets through Moshtix.