Page last updated at 14:42 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 15:42 UK

Review: It Felt Like A Kiss

By Peter Price
BBC News

Documentary film-maker Adam Curtis has teamed up with theatre group Punchdrunk for his latest project It Felt Like A Kiss. The 'walkthrough experience' has taken over a disused five storey building in Manchester as part of the city's International Festival.

It Felt Like A Kiss
It Felt Like A Kiss started life as an experimental film Curtis made for the BBC

The lift doors close. I'm trapped with three strangers and surrounded by 70's elevator chic. We ascend in silence with the words of the show's host ringing in our ears; those with a nervous disposition should think again.

Breaking the spell, the girl next to me tells us her boyfriend saw this show the night before. In her words he'd returned home 'seriously freaked out'. The doors open, my heart quickens and we make our first tentative steps into the darkness.

Fans of Adam Curtis will instantly recognise the world he has created. Working together with theatre production company Punchdrunk, It Felt Like A Kiss occupies several floors of an abandoned office building in Manchester's Spinningfields.

I've stepped through the screen and into a new Curtis film. Every sense is immersed in the experience. Navigating through this rich world of evidence, movie-goer becomes movie maker as we each find our own narrative.

Visitors are encouraged to scrutinise every prop in this unscripted thriller. There's a lot to investigate and I become engrossed in books, photographs and letters.

Curtis' fascination with post-war Americana is present in this show, which treads the fine line between dream and nightmare

Curtis is a documentary maker who has produced a series of highly acclaimed programmes for the BBC. His fascination with post-war Americana is present in this show, which treads the fine line between dream and nightmare.

At the heart of this adventure, if you can find it, is a film. It's a fascinating and thought provoking riot of colour and music where the plot is stitched together with pictures and sound from the archives. It explores the links between a young CIA agent, a young Saddam Hussein and a young Doris Day.

Barely a week after the death of one of the world's most famous entertainers, we delve into the lives of previous stars who hid their nightmares behind silver screen dreams.

It Felt Like A Kiss
The 'experience' runs until Sunday 19 July

The venue for this special screening is a film night in an American school gymnasium. This is very much a conventional Curtis documentary in a unconventional setting. With the senses on edge, it's a chance to sit and catch my breath.

Just as the story is becoming clear, the dream turns sour and rushes away from me with alarming speed. Cacophonous music composed by Damon Albarn adds to the sense of chaos and disorientation.

The staging is deceptively simple. Old fashioned stage tricks of light and sound combine with the hi-tech of projectors and concealed cameras to subvert the mind.

Over the course of the action - nearly three hours - daylight becomes a distant memory. Just like Hollywood's most scary creations, you know it's make believe but under the spell of the director my common sense is disappearing fast.

Through it all I stay close to the girl from the lift. Although never exchanging names we've forged a friendship in the face of adversity. But then we lose each other and I'm alone and helpless in a vortex.

The mind is cruel as our camaraderie has fooled me into thinking of my fellow strangers as a lifeline. After all, no matter how hard I try, I'm not in control. And within an instant, instinct is all I have.



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