I was recently asked by the Cornerhouse if I would be interested in reviewing the DVD release of Swandown, which was one of my favourite films of last year (it premiered at the Cornerhouse as part of Abandon Normal Devices festival). As a big fan of both canals and director Andrew Kötting, I was happy to take up the chance to watch the film again.
As Edith makes her way towards her destination, however, there is a growing sense of unease and a sense of the impending curtailment of physical and creative freedom. Not only are Sinclair and Kötting running out of time as Iain has to abandon Edith for the plane, a faster and more practical form of transport, needing to reach an appointment in America, but the journey is increasingly fraught with potential danger and obstacles, from health and safety to the tight security of the Olympic site, sealed off from canal craft by a vicious-looking fence. During the journey Sinclair expresses the hopelessness he feels when contemplating the huge enclosures of the Olympic site and, indeed, the whole project is positioned as an antidote to the pomp and excess of the Olympics. Hauling the pedalo up riverbanks and over muddy fields, spending a whole month in the same clothes and being able to wet themselves whenever they want to, an image of personal sacrifice akin to the more-celebrated figure of the marathon runner, Swandown is as much a spectacle of physical impossibility as the athletic feats which go on in crowd-lined sporting arenas.
Released in the year of the Olympics, as part of the so-called Cultural Olympiad, yet existing in a parallel universe to the competitive, corporate nature of the games, Swandown puts poetry back into the act of endurance, a timely, touching and irreverent acknowledgement that perseverance, as much as inspiration, is integral to the act of creativity – and vice versa.
To purchase the film on DVD visit www.cornerhouse.org/bookstore/product/swandown-film-dvd.
Photos copyright of Anonymous Bosch.