“Once I loved a man who was a lot like the desert, and before that I loved the desert.” – Rebecca Solnit (2006). Late last year, I quite accidently combined the viewing of two films that spoke of a theme I have become interested in over the last few months. Viewing Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point (1970) followed by Dennis Hopper’s debut as a director, The … Continue reading Sex and the Landscape in Zabriskie Point (1970) and The Last Movie (1971)
“My mother lives in the windy Orkney Islands. It’s certainly a wonderful place to be brought up in.” – A Portrait Of Ga In making a short film about her mother, the experimental filmmaker, Margaret Tait, essentially drew upon an interesting dialectic between place and youth. With 1952’s A Portrait Of Ga – a 4 minute short, shot on 16mm and with a voice-over by … Continue reading Place and Youth in Margaret Tait’s A Portrait Of Ga (1952).
British cinema is obsessed with the effect of location upon the individual. In fact, it wouldn’t be so sweeping to suggest that large swaths of culture born on these isles stems from the idea that the individual can be deeply molded by their surroundings and any fictional drama from Albion will be bare the aesthetics of its areas as far more than a setting. While … Continue reading Fear And Loathing In The Countryside – Withnail And I (1987).
Nature is always present or at the very least contrasted against something in Gideon Koppel’s nostalgia portrait, Sleep Furiously (2008). In spite of the film being a very clear ethnographic postcard from the director’s past, having lived previously in the Welsh town of Trefeurig, it manages to underline its gentle portraiture with a sense of pervading nature and landscape; where even the most concrete of … Continue reading Emerson’s Nature and Sleep Furiously (2008) – Gideon Koppel.
Few films are as explicit in their depiction of character relationships that are at the mercy of the fluctuating landscape than Roman Polanski’s 1966 film, Cul-De-Sac. Polanski had been to both ends of the environmental spectrum within his previous two films – the open waters of Knife In The Water (1962) and the cramped, claustrophobic London of Repulsion (1965) – and Cul-De-Sac sees him returning … Continue reading Isolation And Madness In Cul-De-Sac (1966) – Roman Polanski.
Within the British tradition of the “Chase and Pursuit” drama, there are several reoccurring themes. The idea of a lone individual being chased through different topographies by a group seems to have been popularised in Britain by the Second World War but was around far before then. The basic impetuous seems to be that an individual is wanted for some crime or misdemeanour (sometimes falsely) … Continue reading Fugitive Refuge In The Landscape – (A Cottage On Dartmoor, The 39 Steps, Hunted, Rogue Male).
In Henry David Thoreau’s influential work, Walden (1854), he speaks of many elements of the natural landscape and the deeper meaning within it. Tying into the first movement of transcendentalism, Thoreau’s was one of a number of works that sought out inner spirituality within a journey toward the outside. One quote seems particularly prescient, both in the context of our film of study and in … Continue reading Death and Landscape in Drowning By Numbers (1988) – Peter Greenaway.
The characters of Nigel Kneale’s work rarely like the “outsider.” The drama of his plays is often built around small groups of people at odds with (or at least representational nationally of being at odds with) some concept of the outsider. The oppositional group will be diametrically opposed for a variety of reasons; sometimes for more pulp tendencies such as aliens in a space invasion … Continue reading Quatermass II (Nigel Kneale) – Fear Of The Outsider Within The Landscape.
As some may know, I’m currently engaged in a collaborative project with the writer, Robert Macfarlane, and also in periphery with the artist Stanley Donwood. Our aim is to produce a short visual summation of the fragmented novella booklet that Robert and Stanley released, together with writer Dan Richards, all about the Holloways of Dorset. These Holloways are sunken paths; pathways that have grown into … Continue reading Filming In The Holloways.
Out of all of Derek Jarman’s pre-feature length film work, his short capture of a 1971 walking trip, A Journey To Avebury, is perhaps his most interesting and subtly complex piece of short film work. These were the early days of Jarman’s experimentation when his work as a painter and even a set designer still seemed to dominate over his purely cinematic interests. This was … Continue reading Perception Of Landscape in A Journey To Avebury (1971) – Derek Jarman.