NYFF Spotlight: Patience (After Sebald)
Posted by Nicholas Kemp on 9.16.2011
Why you should see it:
Patience (After Sebald) is a rich and unique cinematic essay created in response to W. G. Sebald’s seminal literary work The Rings of Saturn. This highly lauded and hotly discussed book has inspired artists across diverse mediums to interpret, reimagine, and otherwise address Sebald’s account of a series of walks he took through the countryside of Suffolk, England. Director Grant Gee highlights some of these projects, such as Barbara Hui’s engrossing “Litmap” of The Rings of Saturn, while at the same time crafting his own response to the work. This compulsion to enter into dialogue with Sebald is described in the film by Lise Patt, co-editor of Searching For Sebald: Photography After W.G. Sebald, who, with hushed admiration, describes her response to one of the book’s images:
“This, to me, called out for interpretation. I felt I needed to back and really pay attention and it was the first time, when I read The Rings of Saturn, that that occurred. I think it’s very hard to do this, to use this medium of book, you know, the linearity of a book, and to use the images to pull you back. That is why it is like a journey, even as you’re reading it, because you’re constantly having to go back.
“I was blown away. I really thought, this is where we have to, sort of, stop and reconsider what he was doing. He’s become very, very important for contemporary artists, I think. And for that reason we have to also reconsider and think of him as both a writer and an artist.”
Patience (After Sebald) premiered at a special festival devoted to W. G. Sebald put on by Aldeburgh Music in Snape Maltings, Suffolk. It will have its North American premiere at the 49th New York Film Festival before heading to the Vancouver International Film Festival.
About the director:
Grant Gee is best known for directing music documentaries, including Joy Division (2007) and Meeting People is Easy (1998), a film about Radiohead for which he received a Grammy nomination. He is also an accomplished cinematographer, having worked on films such as Stones in Exile (2010), Scott Walker: 30th Century Man (2006), Faster (2003), and No Maps for These Territories (2000).
What the NYFF programmers say:
“Patience is a film by Grant Gee, who a few years ago made a wonderful documentary about Joy Division. The film is what you might call an esthetic response to The Rings of Saturn by W. G. Sebald, the German author who had lived most of his adult life in the UK. That book, which I wouldn’t call it a novel, is a fascinating account on taking a long walk in Suffolk, where Sebald lived, and looking at different things, e.g. looking at a building and beginning to trace the history of that building, the meaning of that building, the residents of that building, all kinds of different things like that. It’s a wonderful work, really one of the most discussed works during the last 10 to 15 years. Sebald unfortunately died in 2001. This film shows you some of the places Sebald was writing about, and then reflects on his presentation, using the voices of many critics, other authors, and other artists who were all influenced by Sebald’s works. It’s a very creative way to make a film about a book and about an author. It’s neither an adaptation of the book, nor a didactic presentation of that book, but an aesthetic response in which the director tries to find a cinematic form that in a certain way approaches the suppleness of form that Sebald had in his book.” —Richard Peña, Program Director