Patience (After Sebald)
This poetic and meditative documentary introduces the viewer to the writings of the German/English writer W. G. Sebald and mainly his novel The Rings of Saturn which focuses on the narrators trips around Suffolk.
I must admit I had not heard of Sebald before viewing the film, but from what I have gathered he must have been one of the greatest writers of the turn of the century. This information is pounded into the viewer over the course of the film through a medley of essentially unrelated anecdotes presented by people whose identity and relation to Sebald remains unexplained.
They select pieces from the novel they liked and explain why they liked them, they go on personal tangents which they then somehow relate to Sebald or they quote from their own works and ideas. With this noise in the background the movie takes us through a black and white itinerary of Sebald’s journey from the book. I presume this was supposed to be the backbone of the film, but there are no solid pieces here, and there is barely a scene which relates to the next one.
The images themselves are beautifully shot and can evoke different emotions, but to what aim is unclear. Is the film about Sebald? Or the journey? Or his book?
The images themselves are beautifully shot and can evoke different emotions, but to what aim is unclear. Is the film about Sebald? Or the journey? Or his book? If the interviewees aren’t speaking we are invited to listen to Jonathan Pryce’s monotonous voice reading from the book, we quickly learn that Sebald’s is not a text which works well when listened to, the words are best absorbed when read, otherwise one is quickly lost.
I have heard some interesting things and seen some startling images, yet the whole left me with nothing. Still there were many around me who exclaimed profound appreciation, the same people though who in the next sentence praised the book. Is it then a film by Sebald-lovers for Sebald-lovers? A few years ago I saw a documentary about Joy Division by the same director and afterwards have immediately started listening to the band; this film however had failed to evoke more than a slight curiosity about the writings of W. G. Sebald.