The Anchorage -- Film Review
Winner of the "Filmmakers of the Present" competition at Switzerland's Locarno Film Festival, this is a meticulously composed debut from Tokyo-based Swede Anders Edstrom and California's C. W. Winter (the former is credited as cinematographer, the latter as scriptwriter, both sharing directing/editing duties). It may appeal primarily to festival programmers and attendees seeking hypnotically rarefied fare. Kelly Reichardt's similarly over-subtle "Old Joy" translated critical favor into successful distribution a couple of years back, yet the even lower-key "Anchorage" has much dimmer commercial horizons.
Indeed, so matter-of-fact is it in recording the habits of a middle-aged woman (Edstrom's mother Ulla) in and around her house on the Stockholm archipelago, one might almost mistake it for verite documentary. Ulla lives alone. She's paid a visit by her grown-up daughter, but there's no sign of a husband. Is she a widow?
She has certain daily routines, starting with a long dawn-break walk through a forest to a rocky shore where she strips and immerses herself for a few strokes in the icy-looking water. She performs this 'ritual' several times during the film's 87 minutes, culminating in a dip which differs from the others in one small, telling detail.
We may draw certain conclusions -- biographical, psychological, perhaps even sociological and anthropological -- from events we seen and hear, innocuous happenings that we may construct into something resembling a "story."
Much of art cinema has, of course, been exploring "post-narrative" fictional possibilities for some time. It can be refreshing to experience a placid movie, which allows us to contemplate nature and our place within it. "The Anchorage," via Jeff Mooridian's intricate sound-design, captures such easily taken-for-granted delights as birdsong, wind in the trees, the gurgling of water.
While they craft some immaculately-framed 16mm images, Winter and Edstrom -- unsurprisingly, a photographer by trade -- don't provide sufficient rewards to justify the considerable effort and attention they so quietly, so insistently demand.
Venue: Viennale (Vienna International Film Festival)