Cornerhouse

Film

Two Years at Sea

Staff Review/ Two Years at Sea

  • Thu 17 May, 2012
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Usher & Box Office Assistant Chris Daniels reviews Two Years at Sea

Two Years at Sea is the first feature length film and theatrical release by the celebrated British artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers. Utilising the long established apparatus and techniques of experimental film making, Rivers uses hand-cranked Bolex film cameras and grainy black and white 16mm film stock which he processes himself, in his own kitchen sink.

Cinematic audiences not accustomed to the visible chemical shifts, flickers and end-of-reel exposures that the literal do-it-yourself process concocts on the celluloid may find these traces completely alien to the perfections of the image in this digital age, but it is these mineral deposits, dirt and grain that fixate the film’s celebratory gaze as much as the documented subject, Jake Williams, a senior-aged man living in completely solitary dwellings within an overgrown rural wilderness.

What follows is a timeless, meditative study of a unique individual whose singularity is conveyed visually by the incidental occurrences embedded on the print of the film.

At times, the graininess of the image buzzes around Williams like the insects captured on the soundtrack, whilst the pulses and throbs of specific shots interrupt the flow of the film like palpitations to celebrate the immediacy, transience and contentment of the life being depicted on screen.

Two Years at Sea runs at a pace similar to recent releases such as Michelangelo Frammartino’s Le Quattro Volte or Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, whereby sustained long shots offer a narrative that is implied rather than overtly, if at all, enacted. Rivers also thanks artist Andrew Kotting during the (very brief) end credit sequence and there are similar themes shared by both filmmakers in their explorations of the embedded psychology of locations – notably, in Kotting’s upcoming AND Festival 2012 commission Swandown.

Like all of these features, if you can slow your viewing pace accordingly and surrender to the tranquillity of this film you will leave the cinema with a sense of calm that is long lasting, highly rewarding and not to be missed.

Catch the final screening of Two Years at Sea tonight at 18:20. Book your tickets here.

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COMMENTS

Just wanted to point out that ‘mineral deposits, dirt and grain’ is a quote by Ben Rivers from the book ‘FILM’ that Tate Publishing put out last year – it’s a great book celebrating analogue film making in the digital age and recommend it to anyone who loved this film!

Chris Daniels  

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