Monday, February 24, 2014

Two Years at Sea

Two Years At Sea (2011)

What it Jake doing? What does Jake think about? How did he get to this stage in his life? Where is Jake’s family? Is Jake all alone? Does Jake love nature? Is Jake the original mystic wizard ragamuffin? Would Jake be my friend if I went and visited him in his crumble down shanty? Does Jake hate the city because of what it did to him?

Useless questions.

I doubt that we will ever learn the lessons of Robert Flaherty. We want it to be real, and we will have our way. Jake is a flimsy construct, an open-ended catalyst, reverse propulsion towards the self. I like this movie for what it does with our wants. Shot in a bubbly grit storm of 16mm black and white and devoid of anything like dialogue, it is overripe with setup, quirk and hushed whatsit. It provides a fine, fresh tabula rasa for the viewer to wantonly Xerox their own consciousness upon.

This movie is about us and what we bring to the screen. It is not a document of Jake’s life, and that is what’s most important because we can't help but want it to be a document... and what does that say about us and what we want? Jake is not what the film makes him out to be. Rivers never ask him to be “documented’, quite the opposite, he says, “It does seem rather unlike him when you see him in the film, when in reality he is very gregarious, friendly, noisy kind of person. I think he’s a brilliant performer.” Jake is also self-conscious; Rivers says that Jake had seen many of his films. Jake acted intentionally, playing a part. So back away.

If there is a polemical core to this movie it most revolve around what Jake is doing to and with the world around him, the natural world and the role of a man in the landscape. He's sort of like one of those turtles that moves so infrequently that he begins to build up moss and sediment on his shell.

In spite of his ability to engage and facilitate evocative moments, Rivers has a dim and affected idea of the rural as an antithesis to urban spaces. As a result his mythology is lame as are the effects that the respective environments have on the viewers mind. When he moves the narrative overtly in that direction, suggesting or highlighting with clunky magical realism the dreams stutter step. In his own words, Rivers claims that he hoped to portray “People living at a more self-regulated relationship to time rather than time being forced upon them.” But that is not what happens, certainly the film seems slow, but that’s just the pacing. Certainly Jake doesn't seem to be in a hurry, but that's just because he doesn't really have much to do and what he does do is depicted as random and relatively trivial.

The Upshot:
If you want to spiral, unhinged, in disembodied third person as your consciousness is being excised from conventional temporal strictures then watch Tarkovsky’s, Stalker, a movie that truly respects the inexplicable temporal relationship between man and the landscape.

If you want to feel emotionally drawn to a weird little hermit in an imaginary world then watch Two Years at Sea. It's a pretty good movie.

Also of note: Ben Rivers’ Slow Action: a kind of morphine-soaked second cousin to John Boorman’s, Zardoz (if it was coproduced by The History Channel and Chris Marker).


Quotes Taken From: BFI Events, Published on May 28, 2012

Director: Ben Rivers

Actor: Jake Williams