A patience-testing experimental documentary on the East England coastline.
Art and film are often seen as close, complimentary siblings. From Dali’s iconic, reactive exploration of Surrealism in Un Chien Andalou to Banksy’s acclaimed meta documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, artists have frequently turned to the medium of film to examine the subject of art, often proving the two can entertainingly co-exist on the big screen. Robert Pacitti's On Landguard Point struggles to follow suit in a feature length experimental art film exploring a lesser-known segment of England’s heritage.
Set in the year preceding the 2012 Olympic Games, the film investigates the concept of home and Britishness, in particular the cultural significance of Landguard Point – a jut of coastal land transformed here into the site of a mass community art installation. Loosely documenting a series of live outdoor events, performance art and regional reflections from its residents, the film plays out to a voiceover reciting poetry and prose and features an original soundtrack by Michael Nyman.
The result is a strange combination of Planet Earth and The League of Gentlemen, but sadly lacking in any sense irony. Attenborough-style musings invite us to marvel at the East of England’s landscape, laboriously capturing natural wonders such as — wait for it — grass. If long takes of soil are your thing, this is most definitely for you. In an apparent unintentional homage to The League of Gentlemen, Pacitti interjects this local scape-surveying with macabre performance art – a naked trombonist emerging from the sea, a ventriloquist’s dummy, an Elvis impersonator. Anything goes in the name of art.
One complement frequently afforded to experimental cinema is its unconventional relationship with the viewer. By disallowing the immersive and escapist capabilities of most mainstream cinema, the viewer is expected to work to form a more active, thoughtful relationship with the film. On Landguard Point expects too much, with the resulting product feeling more like an endurance test than an exercise in thought provoking cinema.
Pacitti shares some interesting concepts surrounding the search for identity through an exploration of home and its heritage that may have been better off observed in a gallery context, or experienced first hand in one of the many mass participation events presented here. For the members of the Suffolk community involved in this project, the exploration of their local heritage and cultural traditions sounds like an interesting one. But while a widespread archaeological dig of 205 residents’ back gardens may have made for a profound, soul searching activity, its shift to the big screen makes for a viewing experience on a par with watching paint dry. Or strangers digging.
‘An East of England adventure in real life and film’ – with a tagline this catchy, how could we say no?
Praying for a power cut.
What’s the (Landguard) point?