Adam Roberts

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Stiletto 1997, revised 2009

12 mins, Super16, 1.78:1, colour

Stiletto is about a boy, deprived of mother and father. His aunt is no substitute. There are no men in this boy’s world; and his aunt’s care of him is devoid of affection.

The boy erects a set of compulsive rituals, which allow him to approach and adore a creature kept in a garden shed. Without rituals, he would have no purpose, no meaning. The boy knows that if he adores correctly, then those who do not care enough will die, eaten alive by his god creature. The creature in the shed is summoned by rhythmic invocation, tapping that might bring silence and order.

But the boy is puzzled by his aunt’s bright world, one in which the emblem of femininity, the stiletto heeled shoe, is sold, it seems, to men. But so obscure is this possibility, that the boy does not comprehend. He surely would not want to become a woman?

Stiletto is loosely inspired by Saki’s tale Sredni Vashtar. It is an expressionist exercise in rhythm and ritual, a set of forms and moments that aim to evoke the wordless mentality of an immature mind. In its looping and widdershens progress it hope to capture something of an immature male subjectivity turning sour.

The film was originally laden with expository dialogue, but the editing process, which has taken more than a decade to complete, now reduces the plotting to hints and suggestions of the wider story. The film-maker aimed to reveal a form by this sculptural process. There was little or no “coverage” in an case, so the sole material for work is timing and proportion.

Cast: Sharon Maughan & Tom Hunt

Camera, editing, direction: Adam Roberts

Script: Mark Wheatley

based on Sredni Vashtar by Saki

DoP: Jack Hazan

Production designer: Teresa McCann

Costume Design: Louise Page

Producer: Ben Woolford

Production company: Tall Stories

Music: Matteo Fargion & Marc Sabat

First tx: Channel 4 Autumn 1998

Funded: BFI/Channel 4

Published by filmarmalade DVDs with an interview by Jonathan Romney and Miranda Pennel with the director.