'Yarn' ('Garn'): Film Review

Yarn Olek Still H 2015
Courtesy of Bond Influence
A fanciful art doc for the craft-y among us.

Four women stretch the boundaries of fiber arts.

Setting out to show the range of expression found in a field of craft it feels is too often dismissed as a trivial women's pastime, Una Lorenzen's Yarn showcases four artists doing things with crochet your spinster great-aunt probably never imagined. Viewers actively engaged in the fiber arts (professionally or as hobbyists) may warm to a niche theatrical release, and will be rewarded with a few lovely landscapes; on video, prospects are much brighter.

Four women from around the world catch Lorenzen's eye, and the range of their personalities, from flamboyant to reserved, is reflected in the fact that one mostly lets those who interact with her work do the talking: Tilde Bjorfors, who has constructed a hangar-sized installation for Copenhagen's Cirkus Cirkor, keeps largely to the background while acrobats and gymnasts muse (not always persuasively) on what it means to work their magic on her set.

In Rome and later Nova Scotia, Lorenzen visits with Japanese sculptor Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam, who decades ago moved from the fine-art world to focus on children's playscapes. Her nylon-net park sculptures, called Net Play Works, are colorful and inviting, more purpose-driven and durable forebears to the biomorphic installations of Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto (not mentioned here).

Closer to the gallery world, though they both take their work out into the streets, are Iceland's Tinna Thorudottir and the Polish-born woman who calls herself Olek. With the former, we walk through streets in Reykjavik and Havana to yarn-bomb lamp posts and blank walls; the politically minded maker happily incorporates pieces of old thrift-store embroidery into her compositions, rescuing dusty pieces of creativity from the domestic sphere and contributing to a strange new variant of street art. Olek is more invested in the gallery game, but is also given to attention-getting public installations like wrapping a locomotive engine in brightly colored camouflage patterns or covering volunteers in full-body crocheted disguises and sending them into unsuspecting crowds.

Each time the film hops from one location to another, it gives us interstitial narration written and read by Barbara Kingsolver. The author's poetic musings on yarn are charming at first, as we watch herds of Icelandic sheep hopping around their mountain pastures, but grow a bit tiresome as the film continues, playing like an attempt to force some highbrow thematic unity onto a quartet of creative oeuvres whose only real common thread is, well, thread.


Distributor: Bond 360

Director: Una Lorenzen

Screenwriters: Krishan Arora, Barbara Kingsolver

Producers: Kirshan Arora, Thordur Bragi Jonsson, Heather Millard

Director of photography: Iga Mikler

Editor: Thorunn Hafstad

Composer: Orn Eldjarn

In Icelandic, Danish, German, English

76 minutes