Monday, 26 July 2010


(Ben Russell; USA/ Suriname; 2009)

This is film-making forged from the School of Minimalism. Essentially this is a 135-minute film composed of a little more than a dozen long single shots, often tracking through a changing landscape (from jungle to dirt road to bus to city streets, back to jungle, then to quarry, etc) and frequently following two Surinamese men. I find it appealing to have the opportunity to meditate and meander within the images presented, to not have a narrative forced upon me and to drift within the camera's drift. Previews of the film outline a connection between the journey these men take with the journey their ancestral slaves took centuries ago, and I found myself feeling the trace of history on the actual paths these men tread, and noting the other feet that must have wore these paths into furrowed grooves in the landscape.
However, for once my penchant for drifty minimal film has hit a slight wall, as I found my myself drifting towards sleep about halfway through the film. This film's meditative, long-take pace of a journey through a changing landscape reminded me of Lisandro Alonso's Los Muertos, but there's a key difference between both films. Alonso's film has a very loose narrative core at its heart, and is satisfied in allowing the drift to occur within 80 minutes. In Los Muertos, we are going from A to B. But in Let Each One..., the protagonists are going from A to A to A, which is perhaps politically significant regards the journeys the Surinamese may have taken in the course of their history, but opens up the possibility for a bit of snooze-time.
Visually, the film is stunning, and the film offers many sublime moments of meditative cinema-drift, but I wonder if the film could have been culled a fraction.

ADDENDUM (written 16/08/2010): This film preyed on me over the past couple of weeks, and I'm beginning to re-assess my original views. I watched a segment of this film again (on YouTube) and I feel I didn't do this film justice. The fact that I said these brothers are merely going from "A to A to A" seems a little silly now - the journey that is charted in this film is an audacious and brave directorial decision from Ben Russell. By focussing purely on the movement of these two people, with slight digressions here and there, an intensely palpable sense of moving away from an original point is evoked. As they keep travelling, it is as if the ghost-trace of where they have travelled from remains within the film. I keep thinking of the starting point, and recalling the movement away from this point. I wrongfully ignored the camerawork in my original review - the constantly roving and moving camera as it follows these men is incredible, even circling around them as they walk - one moment we're in front, the next moment we've gently dropped back and we are behind them. I correct my feeling about it's length - it is not over-long, it does not need to be culled, and I wish I could watch again right now to re-live it. The score goes up to 4, and a re-view of this film some time in the near future is in order.

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