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Patience (After Sebald) - Movie Review - 2012

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Patience (After Sebald) - Movie Review - 2012

Still From 'Patience (After Sebald)' - The coast of East Anglia

Cinema Guild

Exploring the Work of Author W.G. Sebald

British filmmaker Grant Gee's documentary evokes rather than represents the writings of renowned author W.G. Sebald.

An Essay Documentary About A Literary Giant

Sebald, whose works have an almost cult following, was born in Germany in 1944, but moved permanently to England -- to East Anglia, to be precise -- in 1979, at age 26. Haunted by resonances of his native country and its role in World War II, and especially in the Holocaust, Sebald wrote deeply personal works that flowed freely between his social observations, memories and personal opinions. His style is unique and masterful, combining essay with fiction, weaving together external and internal narratives in a mystical and mesmerizing way.

The Filmmaker's Vision

Grant Gee, an admirer of Sebald's work, sets out to capture the essence of Sebald as expressed in The Rings of Saturn, in which Sebald's protagonist, a character who's given his whose own name -- W.G. Sebald -- goes on a walking tour of Suffolk, a county situated on the eastern coast of England. The book's narrator informs us that his journey is intended to be one of self discovery and introspection as much as it is a look at the beautiful countryside and its special places. It is a sort of travelogue that's filled with personal observations and notes about the actual places that are visited, along with philosophical musings about history, culture and ambiance, and with introspective statements recounting personal memories and impressions past and present.

In Patience (After Sebald), Gee follows the route Sebald takes in The Rings of Saturn and uses many of the photographs used to illustrate the book, plus archival and original footage, to establish places and mood.

The photos and footage are in black and white. Many of the photos seem to be quite old. Their use gives the film an inexplicably otherworldly meditative dream-like quality that's fascinating and unforgettable.

In voice over narration, actor Jonathan Pryce reads passages from the book. Pryce's delivery and Sebald's stream of consciousness style add to the film's otherworldly ambiance.

Masterfully intercut with this unique imagery and Sebald's transcendent literary presence are on camera interviews with other writers, visual artists and scholars who interpret Sebald's work and recount anecdotes about the author and their encounters with him and with his writings. The montage mimics -- or captures -- Sebald's writing style remarkably well. The film is as filled with ideas and impressions as the book. It is an extraordinary cinematic interpretive essay about the works of a great writer.

Getting To Know Sebald

Patience (After Sebald) is so rich with references to The Rings of Saturn that you might enjoy the film and better understand its brilliance if you were quite familiar with the book. But that isn't really necessary. Even if you've never read The Rings of Saturn -- or any of Sebald's writings, for that matter -- this inventive, innovative documentary will grab you and take you on an unforgettable cinematic journey. In fact, if you haven't read the book, this film will certainly make you want to do so, and if you have read it, you'll probably want to read it again. And then you'll probably want to see the film again. Yes, Patience (After Sebald is that intriguing.

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Film Details

  • Title: Patience (After Sebald)
  • Directors: Grant Gee
  • Premiere Date: January 27, 2012, United Kingdom
  • U.S. Theatrical Release Date: May 9, 2012 (limited)
  • Running Time: 82 mins.
  • Location: Suffolk, England
  • Language: English
  • Production Company: Illumination Films
  • Distribution Company: Cinema Guild
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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