Sunday, October 23, 2011

Two Years at Sea

Ben Rivers' first feature film Two Years at Sea (2011) follows the solitary life of Jake Williams in his ramshackle house in the woods of Aberdeenshire.  It has a wonderful landscape sequence where Jake floats slowly across the frame on a home-made raft.  The film was shot using reclaimed 16mm Bolex cameras on Kodak Plus-X (which, if I remember rightly, was what Grant Gee used in Patience: After Sebald) and processed in the film-maker's own kitchen.  This film stock seems to add extra layers of fog to the low hills and fir trees.  Watching it on Friday, I was conscious at one point that I was seeing a view successively filtered through falling rain, a car windscreen, an old camera lens being shaken around as Jake drove up a track, and the grainy black and white film itself, hand-processed and then re-projected onto the cinema screen. The Q&A session after this London Film Festival screening revealed the extent to which the film constructs its own version of the real Jake.  Jake himself was there answering questions, dispelling some of the films' mysteries and revealing how far it was a collaboration: the raft idea, for example, had been a long-standing idea of Jake's but it was the presence of the camera that prompted him to construct it and paddle out onto that grey, misty lake.

Image from David Bordwell's site.

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