A Distant Echo


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

A Distant Echo
"This is cinema that is not necessarily safe."

I took three pages of notes about A Distant Echo, one for each of the white ovoids that are carried through the desert, one for the vertical elements of a shot so striking that even though it is fixed in my mind I had to try to reproduce it on the page such that as other images were written on my memory I could dig through that sand of sights to find a treasure of compositon where it had been buried by successive frames.

I took three pages of notes because I was trying in words to reproduce something that is so stunningly visual and aural that my attempts to convey the mystery and majesty with the aid of a notepad cannot help but fall short of what George Clark has made. I cannot with the notes that I have taken make clear the depths of Tom Challenger's score or the variations between massed voices and a persistent printing press percussion or the shifting sands, and I have three pages here.

Copy picture

I took three pages of notes because I was reminded of Shelley's Ozymandias, and Lean's Lawrence Of Arabia, and through the chains of culture of the infinitely more disappointing Alien: Covenant, or more specifically the almost redemptory suggestion that somewhere in that mess there is a tribute to the working arrangements between Scott and Giger and the legendarium around the latter.

I took three pages of notes because I was reminded of a technical definition of the Romantic that involved moments of beauty recalled at leisure, and the standard festival diary does not allow for the latter and can obfuscate the former, there is scarce time to press flowers to later put daffodils on the page.

I took three pages of notes because I was trying to balance footage of American deserts and moments in a Leeds library and tales of Egypt and the sound of a choir of Yorkshiremen reading from the book of the dead while robot voices hum away beneath them and dunes that are so rectilinear they seem freshly quarried stone and figures beneath blue skies and the stars.

I took three pages of notes because even as I was watching the film I was thinking about the act of watching, of telling stories, of layers and levels and literature. I was in the act of watching inter-titled parts unfolding trying to derive and divine and determine, and I did not know as I started what I know now.

I took three pages of notes because the phrase "everything here seems obscure, and silent" seemed like it might be important. Silent it is not, but obscure is fair - this is experimental film-making, but in the same sense that some aeroplanes are experimental. This is about, as they say, "pushing an envelope". An entirely different set of myth cycles would have wings of wax and feathers and the same sun shining down, and here the flight is at the very limits of tolerance. This is cinema that is not necessarily safe, at a point where some prospective passengers will quail and give it up for the birds. That is enough to say that in truth you will hopefully know by now if this is a film for you.

I took three pages of notes because in the act of watching I could not yet know what I know now, which is that I would tell and will tell and will have been telling some of you to go and see this if you can. I took three pages of notes because I could not then tell who the you who should see this would be. Hopefully, by now, you do.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2017
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The vast expanse of various Californian deserts provide a stage for the contemplative re-enactment of an Egyptian history.

Director: George Clark

Starring: Stuart Baxter, John Clark, Brian Hibbert, Michael Parkinson, John Smith, Ivan Smith, Jasmine Ellis

Year: 2016

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: UK, US


EIFF 2017

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