Monday, 30 July 2012

Man Of Aran

Nearing 80 years old, this documentary still holds great artistic merit, with the beauty and spectacle of the scenery coming through despite the aged film, along with its distinctive editing style.

If I have a regular reading audience (and my friends assure me that I do), this is not the sort of film they would want to see. This is the sort of film you only see if you have a serious interest in the scholarly appreciation of cinema; ie. Film students.

Since I am a film student, and I will be spending a huge chunk of my class time watching films - both obscure and immediate - I'm going to try change up my blog a little. I'm going to post about every film I watch in class. I'm going to reflect a little on what the film is and why it's significant, but I'll try to do so from the perspective of someone who likes movies... but not that much. I'm talking to you Facebook friends: I'll tell you whether or not you should see this movie. Starting with Man Of Aran.

No doubt you will not have heard of Man Of Aran before. That's ok we're in the same boat (Haha, in-joke. There's a boat in the film). It's a little over an hour long, and depicts a group of people who live on a barren spot of land off the west coast of Ireland. It was made in 1934, and is a work of fiction but functions as a documentary. The film features the titular man and his family living off the Aran sea, using pre-modern equipment and techniques to conduct simple tasks such as fishing, potato growing, boat-mending, shark hunting...

Alright, its not the king-daddy of thrillers, but there's a nice simple plot about the men chasing after a shark and getting lost at sea. The cinematography is wonderful - despite being grainy black and white, the sense of wonder at this exotic corner of the world comes across beautifully. The ocean churns like a pot boiling over, foaming waves engulfing the ground beneath the men and woman, as they fight to wrest something edible from its clutches.

The film is in English, I think. The dialect is difficult to distinguish on its own, but almost all the peoples voices are drowned out by the soundtrack, and the ambient sounds of wind and waves (at least, the version I had). It makes for a pleasant experience to watch, or just listen to while going to sleep. The pace is slow at first, and never really picks up. Action unfolds with a lot of repeated shots from different angles to add drama to small moments like a man about to break a rock with a sledgehammer.

In short, this film is for film buffs: particularly those interested in the history of film, and the history of documentaries. There's certainly something to be said for the craftsmanship on display, like the editing and cinematography, so if you want some good, slightly quirky examples of that, give it a watch. If you're not really interested in any of that, the film might well put you to sleep, so take my earlier suggestion, and watch it while lying in bed.

On the other hand, if you have a burning interest in the life of island-dwellers of the Aran sea during the 1930s, then this is an absolute must see! But be aware, the shark hunting techniques shown may be out-dated, even for the time.