Snow in Paradise, 2014.
Directed by Andrew Hulme.
Starring Frederick Schmidt, Martin Askew, David Spinx, Aymen Hamdouchi, Claire-Louise Cordwell, Ashley Chin, Joel Beckett and Clive Brunt.
Dave’s a petty criminal living on drugs and violence in East London. When his actions kill his best friend, he’s propelled into feelings of shame and remorse. Discovering Islam, he begins to find peace but his old life comes back to test him.
Focusing its attention on gangland London interspersed with the lead’s gradual and sympathetic conversion to Islam, Snow in Paradise is a film with its sights set firmly on the bigger picture of many socially significant topics. Featuring a powerfully gripping central performance from first time actor Frederick Schmidt, the film was largely ignored by British investment and mostly relied on French and German finances. This comes as something of a surprise, for as well as being a strongly written, acted and directed piece, the film has plenty to say about directly relevant topics to the UK and beyond…
Andrew Hulme’s debut feature film is packed to the rafters with the sort of social issues and big city problems that many are aware of but don’t wish to address or confront. The various subjects of organised family crime, gentrification of city areas and the spiritual life of religion are all brought out in an artfully produced crime drama.
The mixing of gangster film with an art-house internal philosophical quest occasionally sits uncomfortably, but for the most part Hulme has brought a powerful and enlightening piece to the screen. Having previously worked as an editor, the new director’s tight reign of a sharp story is fully evident. Possibly drawing on some of the distinctive experiences gained through working on high profile features such as Control, Gangster No.1 and The Imposter, Hulme’s ability to construct a sombre and melancholic air while also serving up profound jolts and jumps contributes to the film’s richly profound atmosphere.
Indeed, the mixture of heavy, drug fuelled internal psychic reordering calls to mind another film that brought a meditative hallucinatory feel to the life of London gangsters; Donald Cammell’s Performance (1970). Both films share a kind of internal stress drama amidst mobsters and East End villains. In the case of Schmidt’s Dave character he has to deal with a far more traditionally horrific double than Mick Jagger, his Uncle Jimmy (Martin Askew).
Askew, who is also the writer of the memoirs the whole story is based on, provides a terrifying performance as a local crime lord. A big noise in the Hoxton and Dalston areas of East London, the character is the sort of guy who kills to get what he wants, which is most of the time. An alarming creation, and based largely on Askew’s own upbringing and associates prior to finding Islam, the character is a fine creation of almost demonic intensity.
Bridging the gap between thriller and character piece is an ambitious project at the best of times, and when underpinned by the arguable benefits of organised religion perhaps even more so. Which is why it is is such an interesting film – with plenty of scenes beautifully detailing spiritual progression alongside sharp observations of social conduct and interactions, Snow in Paradise largely succeeds as an arresting picture designed to ruminate on long after the beautifully shot closing scene.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.