Barnabas’ Column #8: Ansel Faraj’s “THE RISING LIGHT”, The Mabuse Crew Returns
“Goodbye my son. Where you are going, I cannot follow.
And perhaps one day, our paths will cross again against this vast expanse of time and space…..”
- Kathryn Leigh Scott as Aya in THE RISING LIGHT
Ansel Faraj is one of the most prolific independent filmmakers this writer has seen. Sandwiched in between the DVD release of his “DARK SHADOWS reunion film” DOCTOR MABUSE and the theatrical release of DOCTOR MABUSE: ETIOPOMAR, comes THE RISING LIGHT. Described as a “science fiction road movie,” Faraj has chosen to release the film on YouTube, where it’s now available for viewing.
A number of DOCTOR MABUSE cast members came on board for THE RISING LIGHT, including DARK SHADOWS legend Kathryn Leigh Scott. She plays Aya, an otherworldly spiritual guide to protagonist Daniel (Nathan Wilson), an alien who’s come to Earth on an urgent mission. This is Scott’s second film with Faraj. She notes his growth as an artist: “He’s turning to edgier and even grander themes. He learns from himself, an autodidact who chooses his own course. It’s exciting to see his work develop. He’s not afraid to tackle large scale projects despite technical and budgetary limitations.”
And who might Aya be? “Aya is a warrior and a wise elder assigned to mentor Daniel, whom she has come to look upon as a son,” says Scott. “While proud that he’s been chosen to accomplish a difficult, dangerous assignment, she’s concerned about his safety. In the end, she begs to save his life with her own, as any mother would.”
And so Daniel arrives on Earth. His mission is, at first, somewhat vague. He accepts a ride from Alex (Derek Mobraaten), and the two begin a bizarre journey. “The way I approached playing Daniel was like an innocent child seeing the world for the first time,” said actor Nathan Wilson. “Not knowing about the complexities of man and how mankind works. He is very trusting and can be very easily persuaded like a child would be. Not knowing about his true powers which lay just below the surface.”
“THE RISING LIGHT is not at all like DOCTOR MABUSE,” said Faraj. “It’s a very different, more experimental film. A throwback to late ‘60s, early ‘70s road movies like EASY RIDER and TWO LANE BLACKTOP. We were locked in a studio in DOCTOR MABUSE, with just blue screen all around, but with this film, we were out on location 90% of the time. It’s more real in that sense. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have some pretty weird imagery. It still fits my mold of ‘movies are not about realism’. There has to be some level of fantasy in them.”
Shot at various locales around Southern California, including the iconic Griffith Park Observatory, THE RISING LIGHT retains the surreal visual style of DOCTOR MABUSE. Several scenes shared by Scott and Wilson become hypnotic, as they appear to be floating in space as they speak to each other. As in his earlier work, Faraj created these backdrops via computer and though his low budget might not have granted the young auteur access to big studio equipment, the final cut looks as good as anything we might see in the multiplex. A score which borrows heavily from Gustav Holt’s classical masterpiece “The Planets” will help to convince viewers that they’ve joined Daniel on his journey, as Aya watches over him from the skies above.
“I wanted to explore the idea of failure,” Faraj says. “One is presented with a task, and one has to do their best to try and accomplish it, all while risking possible failure. The characters all skirt failure in the film. And if they do fail, there are dire consequences to be paid. Failure is on a great cosmic level.”
There was a bittersweet sadness to the completion of THE RISING LIGHT. Shortly after the film wrapped, cast member Linden Chiles, a noted character actor whose many credits included the 4 O’Clock episode of the original TWILIGHT ZONE, died unexpectedly at age 80. Chiles, who also worked with Alfred Hitchcock, was set to reprise his Doctor Mabuse role in the upcoming sequel.
“I’m hoping to do right by him,” Faraj says. “He gave a tremendous performance in the film. He always knew his lines. He knew what he was going to do, he had his stuff worked out. The man taught me so much about filmmaking, and about life in general. When he died, it was a huge blow to my life. It was very hard to edit the film. He really loved the story of the film and was really looking forward to seeing the finished product.”
“I feel so lucky to have worked with Linden on his last film,” said Nathan Wilson. “He was so giving and such an amazing actor, which in THE RISING LIGHT really shines through. In the end I was happy to be able to call him a friend. He will never be forgotten.”
THE RISING LIGHT can now be seen in full on YouTube.
Next month’s Barnabas’ Column will take a look (or a listen) at the DARK SHADOWS audio dramas being produced by Big Finish Productions!