Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"This is something special."

Stark, black and white, without direct dialogue, this is a minimalist observation of a North Atlantic crossing. Without names, dates, distances, directions, even when the map on the bridge is seen this is a place without place, an island of steel and paint bobbing along in a great grey empty.

There are moments where a singer's silent face emerges from the shadow, detail lost as some bit of Bollywood or similar is repeated from one lens to another, but these are the only eyes that regularly face the audience. All others are bent to task, if seen at all, scale often granted by the flash of fluorescent strip on jacket or waiting bottles of water instead of human hand or haunch.

There is always motion, sometimes of camera, sometimes implied, the slow swing of sun through curtain on carpet, the creak of metal against forces unfathomed, the relentless punch of piston in the cavernous diesels, the always forward, the unwavering across the waves.

There are obvious comparisons to Leviathan, another maritime mix of silent seeing at sea, but this is not a fixed camera, it roves, these are shorter moments, longer scenes, less about light and dark and death than shade and bright and being. The cleaning and lining of a hold, a rib-walled cathedral of cargo, the shuffle of brush and ladder, the unending painting, cooking, charting, movement. Other ritual too, a game of cricket in that floating cavern, the wicket perhaps below the waterline, the sky slivers through the hatch through which the heavens are glimpsed.

What skies, as well, what clouds! There is the clarity through which the lights of the port, a mechanical exactitude that blurs the boundaries between boat and bay and hull and harbour because there's nothing to give scale to an as yet unfamiliar shape, the booms and cranes and gantries of here and there a thicket of technology. There is the rain, the slow sideways slide of wipers on the windows of the bridge. There is lightning too, the rumble of thunder unimpeded by landscape rolling across the audience in an ever shifting set of sounds - conversation untranslated, songs through speakers, the slap of bat on ball, the splash of breaker on bow, the peals of a church bell once shore is restored.

Not entirely confined to the vessel, there are moments underwater, of the water, the light always from above but the view sometimes from below, perhaps, the water eventually another texture like the weave of carpet or the paint on walls or the puddles in the hold or the artifacts of footage of video. The endless pushing through the water, the rhythm of waves produces a sussurus that soothes and is sometimes left to build and build. It is potentially a danger, in the warm and the dark of the cinema, to show someone sleeping, the rise and fall of deck and deck-hand close to lullaby, the snarl and spit of storm enough to startle from that sense of security, solidity.

There is at times another set of textures, the streak of film on frame, the uncertainty of sonic origin - there are noises, but not necessarily sources, a disconnect between the ever-present sea and what we see, save that they are inevitably bound by proximity, connected by buoyancy.

Involving at least three members of the Dufour-Laperrier family, this is director Felix's first feature and a strong work. Screening at Edinburgh's 2015 Film Festival this is (as Mark Cousins tweeted) an archetypal festival film, and it is in that kind of community and space that works like this can find audiences, and should. This is something special, meditative, a trip of almost a month conveyed in the space of an hour and a fifth, enthralling, if not thrilling, literally transporting.

Reviewed on: 24 Jun 2015
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30 days in the daily lives of a cargo ship crew.

Director: Félix Dufour-Laperrière

Writer: Félix Dufour-Laperrière, Félix Dufour-Laperrière

Year: 2014

Runtime: 72 minutes

Country: Canada


EIFF 2015

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