A chance meeting of two strangers. A journey film. A documentary. A diary. A first- person narrative. An essay film. An introspection. A contemplation of the documentary genre. It's static. It's constantly moving. It's deep. It's mundane. Past. Future. Here and now.
In this film there are two characters, who we never get to see – the narrator/film-maker, and an intriguing character who lives on a canal boat with two dogs. During a chance encounter, the film-maker becomes fascinated by this boat-man’s life, and we are taken through the film-maker’s trials and tribulations as he attempts to make a character documentary about him. A relationship is struck up over countless cups of tea at a canal- side tea-house, but the camera is never rolling.
Strong artistic visuals merge seamlessly with the narrative and the viewer is immediately persuaded to join the film-maker in his travels, his let-downs, his discoveries and the many asides in the story. The psychological strand of Behaviourism makes a brief appearance, and psychoanalytic imagery resonates suggestively throughout the piece, gradually furnishing the viewer with little bits of information to slowly patch up a mental image of the boat-man and his environment, making A Long Way a filmic instance of psychogeographical interest.
There are obvious and less-obvious acknowledgements to Patrick Keiller's 'London', Chris Marker's 'Sunless' and Peter Greenaway’s early work in this multi-layered piece. The concept of the journey documentary, which has often preoccupied film scholars like Bill Nichols, Brian Winston and Stella Bruzzi, is worked and reworked in witty, novel and unexpected ways, while consciously avoiding narrative closure and often embracing ambiguity.
Besides reflecting on the idea of documentary as “a window on reality”, ‘A Long Way’ is also an acknowledgment by the filmmaker of having failed to make the film he initially set out to make… but the resulting piece is a journey forged from an intriguing blend of narrative and visuals. This film might take you nowhere… but it could take you a long way.
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