Mark Cousins’s experimental travelogue in the footsteps of DH Lawrence will inspire viewers to return to the books – anything other than the screen.
My overriding desire in watching this pseudo-documentary following in the footsteps of DH Lawrence’s 1921 trip to Sardinia was that it would end. To be fair, it does, fairly soon. Yet never has 85-minutes crept by at such a snail’s pace.
Director Mark Cousins, coming off the back of two very highly rated films, here goes in for in long, static shots of the landscape and its inhabitants, soundtracked by his narrative of a letter to the novelist. He addresses him as “Bert” at the end of so many sentences it begins to become a verbal tic; each time the name sounds like a wet mouth biting into a poisoned apple. Jarvis Cocker provides the voice of Lawrence himself in long quotes the book inspired by the trip, Sea and Sardinia.
Some of the footage is quite beautiful; other shots seem more amateurish, as if either the light or the equipment wasn’t up to scratch. With such insistent focus on natural beauty, that’s important. Coupled with Cousins’s voiceover philosophising the effect is of someone showing their vacation slide show during a community college literature class.
Cousins wants to be another character in this narrative – he holds laminated photos of Lawrence and others with his fingers still conspicuously visible in the frame. He spends the second half of the film dismantling Lawrence’s views on masculinity, politics, and superiority.
At one point, the film starts to pick up steam, investigating the celebration of St Anthony in a small village where the residents light bonfires and dress up as devils with their backs covered in sheep bells. But, just as your interest is piqued, Cousins explains that “often the liveliest part of a film shoot is what happens behind the scenes”. Cue an introduction to the producers, sound tech, and their driver.
Article by Brian Moylan , The Guardian ,Saturday 24 January 2015