Two Years at Sea

Great Britain 2011. Director: Ben Rivers
With: Jake Williams

The first feature-length film by British experimentalist/hybridist/DIYer Ben Rivers (whose acclaimed shorts were showcased in The Cinematheque’s monthly DIM program in 2010) is a work of enigmatic beauty, exploring solitude, the passage of time, and the expressive possibilities of landscape. Rivers’s art has often found the otherworldly and extraordinary in lives lived on the margins and in the wilderness. The subject here is Jake, a hermit living off the grid in the Scottish Highlands. (Jake was also the subject of Rivers’s 2006 short This is My Land). Nearly wordless, this observational portrait of person and place documents the rhythms, rituals, and idiosyncrasies of Jake’s solitary life over the course of a year and the passing of four seasons. It was shot by Rivers using black-and-white 16mm anamorphic stock, developed and processed by hand, and blown up to 35mm — to gorgeous, grainy, strikingly photographic effect. The film also has fantastical tendencies that tip its “realism” into stranger, more mysterious realms — demonstrating why Rivers has questioned the use of “documentary” to describe his works. “Rivers’s movies combine elements of portraiture, landscape film, ethnography, and travelogue while largely ignoring the rules of each genre ...Two Years at Sea is somewhere between documentary and daydream” (Dennis Lim, New York Times). B&W, 35mm. 88 mins.



“Pulls you in instantly with its beautiful opening image ...Interpreting Two Years at Sea is far less important (or necessary) than watching it, experiencing it as it happens.”

New York Times | full review

“What a strange and intriguing film!”

The Guardian | full review

“They could be images unearthed from another era, perhaps from another planet ... A singularly eccentric movie.”

Time Out New York | full review