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Piccadilly Circus by Night (1995)

British Film Institute

Main image of Piccadilly Circus by Night (1995)
DirectorSandra Goldbacher
Production CompanyFida Films
 BFI Production Board
 Channel Four
Executive ProducerKate Ogborn
ProducerFiona Morham
ScriptSandra Goldbacher
PhotographyPatrick Duval

Cast: Matthew Marsh (Greg); Emma Bird (Tanya); Anna Dabrowska (Petra)

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Full of hope, a young woman from Poland comes to London as an au pair, only to find the city a lonely place where dreams do not always come true.

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This short by Sandra Goldbacher was made three years before she directed her acclaimed first feature film, The Governess (1998).

Piccadilly Circus by Night (1995) is a highly stylised tale of a young Polish woman, Tanya (Emma Bird), who comes to London as an au pair, hoping to meet up and stay with her best friend, a successful model. Tanya regularly sends postcards to her mother, recounting her experiences in the city. However, her situation deteriorates as her best friend turns out to be unreliable and unable to provide her with a place to stay. What's more, she is soon forced to leave the house where she has been an au pair due to her growing closeness to the father of the girl she came to look after. We follow Tanya's journey from disappointment to disappointment, until the end she sits in Piccadilly Circus, alone, with nowhere to go and wondering what to do next. Anxious not to worry her mother, she writes in her postcard that she is doing well.

Reflecting her experience in directing commercials, Goldbacher uses an array of visual tools to contrast Tanya's expectations of London with her actual experiences. The opening shots of the two best friends having their picture taken remind us that dreams are sometimes based on little and that friendships can be ephemeral.

As a transition between sections of the film, each protagonist is shown in his or her own scene, in slow motion on a dark background, isolating them in space but also showing that they cannot be to Tanya what she was hoping for, leaving her alone to deal with her situation. Cinematographer Patrick Duval envelops the entire film in an orange glow that, along with the exotic musical track, accentuates the feeling of isolation and strangeness, characteristics familiar to anyone who has just arrived to a new city hoping to start a new life.

Piccadilly Circus by Night is a simple story of dreams and the difficulties that often surface when trying to attain them.

Eric Mahleb

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