Monday, 9 September 2013

Review: On Landguard Point

How do you map a place, and go beyond its surface area to chart its movement through time, space and history? On Landguard Point attempts to do this for the flatlands of East Anglia, taking a pair of scissors to the conventional map of the coastline and inviting us to disregard what we previously thought we knew of the area's topography, starting and ending as a place in which our senses are submerged by the sea that's all around and by the earth below. Out on a limb, bordered by water on three sides, this is a landscape which over centuries has grown and receded with the sea; it has long been a site of conflict and battle, both among man and with the elements. Languard Point was an island before the expanse of shingle crept back towards the mainland, and the film introduces us to those who are “trying to maintain a sense of fixture in this ever-shifting landscape”. Our experience of the Great British weather, as well as of sound, is at its most extreme by the sea and the film sums up the coastal experience in a palette that is limited to various shades of grey and green, soundtracked by amplifications of the creaking of a flag pole, the churning of the sea, the swirling of the sky, the rumble of boats rising massive from the horizon, fog horns and, of course, the omnipresent gulls, over which rove and probe the compositions of Michael Nyman. The film plays with the way in which our understanding of place is shaped through drawing, painting, writing, folklore, music, and even food, inviting us to read a narrative over the shoulder of a typewriter, literally holding a mirror up to the land's diversity of flora and fauna and reducing the area's essence to neon announcements in a surreal piece of installation art. Local landmarks are recreated as grandiose cakes – slice of Wisbech Castle, anyone? It's an absurdist yet affectionate vision of this little corner of Britain, where truth is stranger than fiction, told through a deadpan, gentle, poetic voiceover. Made as the East of England's contribution to the Cultural Olympiad, the cultural counterweight to the Olympic Games, On Landguard Point presents a series of tableaux with a distinctly-English cast of brass bands, Morris men, historical reenactments, metal detectors, treasure hunters, archaeologists, majorettes (pom-poms-a-rustle) and the ubiquitous seaside donkey. It's an apt but uneasy depiction of a desolate but beautiful place and above all, it's a film about home and the things we do to belong: the seaside is performed, ritualised and observed, shaped by us and what we make of it.

On Landguard Point was shown at the Cornerhouse on Sunday 8 September. For more information about the project visit

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