West Cornwall Living: A Year in a Field A documentary film review

West Cornwall Living: A Year in a Field A documentary film review

Who would’ve thought that an entire cinema audience would sit captivated for minutes at a time by the sight of three hugely magnified slugs slowly inching (or rather micro-millimetre-ing) their way along some moss?

But when enlarged to the size of a horse on the cinema screen you realise there’s more to a slug than just the pest annihilating your favourite plants on a nightly basis. And that the moss isn’t moss, either. It’s lichen: a combination of fungus and algae and one of the oldest life forms on the planet.
A man and a dog walk past the Longstone in the middle of a field in Cornwall. They do this everyday. The man is documentary maker Christopher Morris. The Longstone is a 4000 year old standing stone in a field overlooking the wild land and sea near Lands End in Cornwall. And each day for a year the man films what’s happening. And on the face of it, Not Much Happens.

Hardly gripping stuff, you might think. And I thought so too, until I saw it.
For an artist, it’s visual poetry. The changes in the wide, wide sky through day and night, in all weathers and all seasons make for a stunning record of the most westerly point of Cornwall. Ancient Penwith: land of granite. The violent sunsets and misty winter dawns: the leaden storm clouds galloping across the horizon and the lazy late summer light on the field of barley… it’s all beguiling, and so many times I wanted to say, “Stop the Film!” so I could start painting in response to what I
was seeing. It’s that stunning. The soundtrack music is beguiling, slow and mesmerising: sourced from musicians in Cornwall. A perfect pairing for the visual imagery.

It’s quite amazing how many elements of the nature are covered in this 90-minute documentary, and as the film, and the year, progress Chris gradually introduces some of the natural disasters occurring over the globe. All seems so calm and unchanging in the field in Cornwall, but he quietly tells of the forest fires, floods and droughts affecting sea, plant, animal and human life on a massive scale. The massive container ships which glide past the Land’s End coastline carry the consumer goods which soon end up as landfill or plastic packaging which find its way into the field, the rivers and the sea.

It's a mesmerising, beautiful and sobering film. But hopeful too. It has made me reconsider my passive stance on what’s happening to our world. I’ll be going on a silent protest vigil for the environment soon for the first time ever. Change begins at home. I can’t sit back waiting for others to do what I’m too passive to begin.

Hopefully many of the other people seeing “A Year in a Field” will feel the same too.

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