One of the countless comedy gold moments in Tom Berninger’s ‘Mistaken For Strangers’ arises during the director’s interview with Bryce Dessner. The lead guitarist, and one fifth of indie music messiahs, The National, bristles at the line of questioning. “I thought you wanted to talk about me but it seems you just want to talk about Matt. That tends to happen a lot”.
Matt is lead singer with the band. As Tom’s older brother, he charitably invites him along on the world tour bus for a year to preside over essential duties like fetching towels and assembling the daily wish list of goodies on the rider. All of which he undertakes with spectacular incompetency.
The feckless and disarmingly charming Tom has other ideas. Including having a good time in stereotypically rawk star fashion while honing his amateur filmmaking skills. Assembled from 200 hours of handheld camera footage, Tom’s approach is less fly-on-the-wall than irritating mosquito-round-the-ear the band and crew just about endure until he’s batted off the bus.
Like Dessner, I, too, was expecting a reverent behind-the-scenes portrait of a band floating on the milky way of hard fought success. Those moments arrive, often hilariously, but quickly become the trampoline on which the Berningers bounce reflections on their lives and dreams. As individuals in pursuit of creative purpose. As men who have been in combat with the demons of self-doubt and failure. As one perpetually sizing up the other. But mainly as brothers. Their overlaps and differences are threaded together through the eyes of each, and others. As is the tenderness and good-humoured affection that has them reclining in deckchairs shooting the breeze with beer. Counting their winnings from luck, and from making the film we’re watching them in. Possibly the best leg-up from a big brother to a younger towards that elusive sense of achievement.
A gem. Not just for music-lovers and those who love an exquisite use of a New Order song in film. Currently showing at The Light House.