Charlotte Colbert

Charlotte Colbert is an artist and filmmaker based in London. She has written and directed award-winning shorts with actors such as Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Maryam d’Abo, Simon Amstell, Sophie Kennedy Clark, and Cillian Murphy. Her first feature, Leave to Remain—co-written with BAFTA-winning director Bruce Goodison, starring Toby Jones, and scored by Alt-J—was released in cinemas in 2013 and subsequently on the BBC.

She has written an array of original feature scripts, working with (among others) Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), The Bureau’s Tristan Goligher (45 Years), actress and producer Ruth Wilson (Lone Ranger, Luther), Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink, award-winning director Harry Wootliff, the BFI, and Fly Films. She also wrote an original feature script for director Olivier Dahan (La Vie En Rose) and Quad Films (Intouchables), who subsequently produced the short film she wrote and directed, The Silent Man (2016), featuring Sophie Kennedy-Clark, Simon Amstell, Ben Miller, and a cameo by Cillian Murphy. In parallel, she has developed a strong visual identity as an artist. In addition to her many solo shows and large-scale public displays, her work has been shown at major international fairs including Hong Kong Basel, Istanbul Art Fair, and Photo London.

Colbert’s photographic work is strongly anchored within the language of film and storytelling. Her pictures are mostly conceived as a series and sequence developed in script format before being shot. Her work possesses strong philosophical undertones, and often engages with questions of time, space, and identity. 

She also worked with the Stanley Kubrick estate to create a handful of pieces commemorating the 15th anniversary of the filmmaker’s death. The pieces were shown at Somerset House as part of the “Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick” exhibit curated by James Lavelle and James Putnam. Said director Alfonso Cuaron of Colbert’s work, “[Her] beautiful images capture our frailty trapped in the bubble of our own existence.”

Still from The Silent Man. Courtesy of Charlotte Colbert.

Still from The Silent Man. Courtesy of Charlotte Colbert.

On the first film that made an impact on her: 
Dead Again is a strange, fantastical, surreal horror film that I saw as a child where in one scene, a character’s ear drops into her soup and she inadvertently eats it. I was also similarly repelled and fascinated by a self-portrait of Matthew Barney where his face is realistically transformed to be half-human, half-pig. I was very drawn to these unusual extensions of our reality—and to the realization that dreams, nightmares, or queasy experiences could actually be shared. 

On the recurring themes in her work: 
I love black-and-white; it somehow seems to sieve the real and, for me, captures something essential. In terms of subject matter, I am drawn to the absurd—the collision between tragedy and comedy, the dark and the surreal, which I feel capture the essence of the human experience. I have recently come across “Pataphysics,” an absurdist, pseudo-scientific literary trope invented by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907), that enigmatically resists being pinned down by a simple definition. One attempt at a definition might be to say that it’s the science of imaginary solutions, which sounds wonderful. ★