Adam Castle
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Lupi Lupi Lu

a musical film by Adam Castle
for BBC Scotland / LUX Scotland

A musical about being diagnosed with the chronic health condition lupus, featuring a wolf and a butterfly. Lupus means wolf in latin, yet the symbol for most lupus organisations is a butterfly, named after the 'butterfly rash'. I had this rash when I was first diagnosed, and this film explores the fear of diagnosis and the feeling of being ‘on show’ as a medical rarity.

Writing on Lupi Lupi Lu

Stefan Panhas for Videonale festival, Bonn

“With its 5:20 min., Lupi Lupi Lu is probably the shortest musical in the world and yet amazingly complete, finished, round and surprising in every way. With this film, Adam Castle deals with his diagnosis of the insidious autoimmune disease ›lupus‹ (Latin ›wolf‹ – and more precisely: systemic lupus erythematosus) and his refusal for ten years to inform himself about the disease and to accept it for himself, despite the repeated occurrence of the typical symptom known as ›butterfly rash‹ – a butterfly-shaped rash on the face.
But Castle has also produced a very original and, despite its tragic content, funny and surprising film with Lupi Lupi Lu. Characterized by a queer and multiple identity concept, it is a very unique artistic approach to dealing with illness, formally as refreshing and simple as professionally implemented. Specially composed and recorded music, light, sound, and editing – everything fits, nothing is too much. Moments of childlike play intertwine with those reminiscent of films by David Lynch or Denis Villeneuve and elements from the mainstream of the musical universe. Autobiographical elements are interwoven with strictly formal aesthetics, personal-authenticity with fictional artificiality to create a successful borderline hike.
Two people in animal costumes play and sing in a smaller theater space, but in front of and beside the stage and in the auditorium, never on stage. They personify, in flying changes without transition, illness and patient, actor and audience, wolf and butterfly – the two animals that stand for the illness and one of its most well-known symptoms. Singing, poetically complexly interwoven and gathered together, they embody different sceneries, stages, and inner states on the way to the slow acceptance of the disease and let us participate in this sympathetic and partly humorous way, without overexerting us, but also without trivializing.”

Peter Fifield, Lecturer In Modern Literature, Birkbeck, University of London for Birkbeck Centre for Medical Humanities
“Castle’s short film is a surprising one. The film does not so much depict the experience of the writer  and director’s childhood diagnosis with lupus as dramatizes the heightened emotions of and reflections on that life-changing experience. Written in the style of a stage musical it is a colourful, florid, and exuberant response to uncomfortable and difficult events. Commissioned by BBC Scotland and LUX Scotland, the piece is five minutes long, exploiting the compressed genre native to the stage musical: the medley. The songs are sung by two characters, dressed as a wolf and a butterfly. These are animal symbols of the disease itself whose Latin name, lupus, means wolf; and the butterfly, which is the name of the characteristic rash and the symbol common to the Lupus Trust and Lupus UK. The surreal appearance of the two figures speaks to that sense of being made strange to oneself in illness. Here one’s body becomes legible for its pathological meaning, rather than present and phenomenologically transparent. It is no longer something that disappears from view in the process of interacting with the world, as Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes. Instead it is thickly present, demanding attention with its difference. The bulging, cartoon features of the characters’ animal suits are an embodiment of this oddity.

Musicals are, Castle has said, are a form that have both personal and universal meanings. They channel something of the parodic, provocative spirit of camp and cabaret that he has developed with Pollyanna, his queer cabaret night, and also harness music’s widely acknowledged power to move an audience directly. There is, then, both obliquity and directness at work here; there is both thought and feeling. The transition between the first song and second song is indicative, showing the pair in a curtained space reminiscent of the hospital ward, the wolf singing the diagnosis to the butterfly. When the butterfly storms off, distressed, the wolf steps into that other costume, becoming a hybrid of non-human symptoms. The power of disease to transform the subject is movingly sung: estranged from itself but mixed with a sense of relief at a fixed identity, we hear the character sing, quaveringly, ‘Finally, I’m not me’.

When the departed character returns, frantic with emotion, he wears his own wolf costume. His diagnosis has become his character and while there’s a confidence in knowing what that is—which is to say, what *he* is—there’s also regret, and a sense of not wanting to know. The musical communicates the double bind of a lifetime diagnosis: it may be desired, but its comforts are not unambiguous.”

Adam Castle
HomeFilms  PollyannaEAMIFAbout/Contact
Writer and director Adam Castle
Composer Aidan Teplitzky
Videographer Daniel Cook
Cast Margaret Scott and Scott Watson
Musicians Iain Clark, Laura Hundert, Andrew Macleod, Helen Matthews, Christopher Michie, Richard Scholfield, Marysia Turkowska
Editor Nathan Satin Silver
Sound design Nikita Gaidakov
Focus Puller Kieran Colquhoun
Gaffer Jack Darrer
Online Dangerous Studio
Runners Lindsey Brown, Renata Funari, Vincent Jozajtis, Elsa Parker, Kristian Stevenson-Edmunds, Graeme Williamson
Thanks to David Hunt, Ambroise Leclerc