Patience (After Sebald)
The English-domiciled German writer W.G. (Max) Sebald was one of the major literary figures of Europe in the 1990s. His novels, written in German and brilliantly translated into English by Michael Hulse and Anthea Bell, explored the tragic recent history of the continent in a totally original tone of voice—elegant, meditative and packed with exotic allusion.
In The Rings of Saturn (1995—subtitled An English Pilgrimage), Sebald describes, in semi-fictional form, a long solo walk along the coastline of the county of Suffolk, from which, in the Second World War, fleets of bombers took off to strike into the heart of Hitler’s Reich. Grant Gee’s remarkable film, shot mainly in black and white, follows the itinerary of this journey, pausing where Sebald paused, and meeting up with a number of the people Sebald had encountered on his way. The filmmaker’s camerawork distills an austere beauty out of the desolate Suffolk countryside, while at the same time high quality commentary is provided, discreetly and intelligently, by a series of eloquent colleagues (poets, novelists and academics) who knew Sebald well. The elegiac and indeed ghostly tone of the movie resides in the fact that Sebald’s life was tragically cut short in a car crash at the beginning of the millennium. This poetic film (in which Sebald’s recorded voice plays an important role) is a fascinating homage to his achievement.
Grant Gee was born in 1964 in Plymouth and studied geography at the Universities of Oxford and Illinois. Gee has worked in film since 1990 and lives in Brighton. Well-known for his music documentaries, he has been Grammy-nominated twice, for Meeting People Is Easy, about Radiohead, in 2000 and Demon Days, about Gorillaz, in 2006. For his recent feature length work Joy Division (2007) he received many honours including the Grierson Award. He has filmed and directed several short films including City Symphony, 400 Anarchists, (Mr.) Fred Zentner's Cinema Bookshop Was Here and the Western Lands, about the climber and writer Jim Perrin and his “Old Man of Hoy” climb. Grant Gee filmed and edited the critically acclaimed documentary feature film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.