TWO YEARS AT SEA is, I suppose, docufiction – a lightly fictionalised documentary piece by director Ben Rivers. It observes a man who lives alone and pretty much off the grid in a remote area of Scotland. It just observes. Or appears to. The man’s life has been touched by the artist’s hand a little. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it. It reveals something new to me every time.
Up top, a screenshot I took, that encapsulates the beautiful photography, shot with an antique wind-up 16mm cine-camera, the film reportedly developed by hand in the director’s bath. It’s grainy and yet luminous.
The nature of the photography means that, even when the man is still, the picture is completely alive. The living grain and the flicker causes slow pans to have genuine action. The compositions range from objective documentary kitchen sink to perfect paintings. And, just when you think you know what this is, the artist steps in to introduce a few moments of surreal artifice. It’s a film about the most contained and constrained choice of human life, perhaps, but it is somehow endless.