Field Notes On Love


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Field Notes On Love
"It's in the messy business of definition that the film starts to explore where things end and things begin."

"It was six months before she wrote again."

Against a landscape animated by wind, punctuated by two figures, a brief she, a distant he. A jumper, a beard, a lope, a loupe. See closely the branch, the lens of water pooled against its obverse. The leaf spinning on a spider's thread. "What is a tree?" and by extension question the accuracy of all namings. See the falsity of taxonomy, discuss that question of labelling against a background of fungus and lichens. Interpermeability, interpretability.

Under that narration, the camera proximate. A story of relationships. Of and within and to nature. Quotation abounds, and with it focus. A cutting out from a greater thing. The wood absolutely before us, the woods a skew of parallax behind. Unconsidered colours, the dead and the dying. Juliet Stevenson's narration minded me to look up her other voice work and she told the tale of The Very Hungry Caterpillar back in 1993. Here there is again eventually enough to sate, the opportunity for transformation.

Sam Firth's film is a poetic treat, a tale that is fabulous in as much as it feels like a fable. William Aikman's sound design brings us into the woods as surely as each tracked tread upon the enfolding turf. Screened at 2022's Glasgow Short Film Festival it's a different perspective in Firth's ouevre. While Creeling and The Worm Inside both offered different perspectives on individual women's circumstances, this is at once more abstract and (somehow) more internal.

That degree of abstraction is where Field Notes On Love finds its strength. It's in the messy business of definition that the film starts to explore where things end and things begin. The ontological and the botanical have been sides of the same page even before Pliny put pen to paper. Or quill to vellum, to throw more fauna into the mix, though I must admit it might have been charcoal on bark at the draft stage. That's Pliny's, not mine, I just thought of it. That mixture of different woods for the same purpose though, that's borrowed here from Firth, an imperfect indication of perceived intent.

The film is much clearer in its outcomes, if only because it is intent on finding a fuzziness in function, in form. The essence of field notes is that they are a rough in the moment, but in transecting a wilderness for etymological rather than entomological reasons we have something whose roughnesses are momentary, texture to text. Those extensions, exclusions, all speak to Firth's expertise in her craft.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2022
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Essay about a filmmaker in a relationship with a woodland ecologist.

Director: Sam Firth

Writer: Lauren Graham, Jennifer E Smith

Starring: Jordan Fisher, Dove Cameron

Year: 2020

Runtime: 7 minutes

Country: UK


GSFF 2022

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