Patience (After Sebald) View large image

Film Details

Directed by: Grant Gee

Produced: 2010

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: E

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 18 May 2015

Cat No: SODA162STD

Languages(s): English
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Patience (After Sebald)

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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

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Documentary about the life and work of the late author W.G. Sebald, directed by Grant Gee. Though born and raised in Germany, Sebald relocated to Britain in the 1970s to work at the University of East Anglia and a number of his books display the influence British life and the English countryside had upon him. The documentary draws on one of Sebald’s most celebrated works, ’The Rings of Saturn’, in which he describes at length a journey along the East Anglian coast, the people he meets and the memories it provokes. The film recreates elements of the walk and also talks to fellow artists who were influenced by Sebald, including Robert Macfarlane, Rick Moody and Tacita Dean.

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.

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