Directed by: Grant Gee
Countries & Regions: United Kingdom
Region: Region 2
Released: 18 May 2015
Cat No: SODA162STD
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Patience (After Sebald)
Documentary about the life and work of the late author W.G. Sebald, directed by Grant Gee. Though born and raised in Germany, Sebald... Read More
The writer WG Sebald was famously resistant to having his work categorised. Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) uses this as a starting point for a leisurely retracing of the journey Sebald described in his book The Rings of Saturn: a walking tour of Suffolk with digressions into history, literature and autobiography.
Using limited resources (he apparently shot only 100 minutes of film), Gee threads together black-and-white footage of the Suffolk landscape with passages from the book (read by Jonathan Pryce), interviews (with admirers like Andrew Motion, Marina Warner and Iain Sinclair), and incidental tableaux from points along the route.
Gee, who cut his teeth on music videos and documentaries (he directed Joy Division and the Radiohead film Meeting People is Easy), has created a work of thoughtful beauty, both stark and warm-hearted, in the tradition of Patrick Keiller’s Robinson films - and entirely true to the spirit of Sebald’s work. We don’t see the man himself until the film’s last few moments, but his goosebump-inducing cameo gives Patience an eerie, playful and quite wonderful conclusion.
A haunting, allusive film essay, Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) develops the layered approaches of his acclaimed music documentaries such as Joy Division in a filmic analogue of the unclassifiable prose of the late German writer WG Sebald. As much as anything, Gee’s film is a study of place and places, specifically those in East Anglia that Sebald walked through in his book The Rings of Saturn, but more generally, places of dissolution and decay, beached émigré lives, curious coincidences, and, ever-present, man’s grievous inhumanity to man.
This beautifully composed film is one to listen to, not just for the deeply-felt contributions from commentators touched by his work – Andrew Motion, Marina Warner and Robert MacFarlane among them – but for its balance and careful modulation, with words and image haunted by a soundtrack of The Caretaker’s age-laden, dust-filled reworkings of themes from Schubert’s Winterreise.
In a final breath-catching moment, the shade of Sebald himself rises from the place of his death to put his seal on a film that encourages new readings of an author whose genre-defying brilliance is still being discovered.