Rivers And Tides Review
Rivers And Tides is a documentary feature by Thomas Reidelsheimer on the work of Andy Goldsworthy, a UK sculptor of worldwide fame and renown. Goldsworthy’s work is far from conventional, being neither representational, abstract, performance nor even really conceptual art, yet it is brilliantly original and perfectly accessible, its value and worth being readily apparent and naturally beautiful, operating outside the commercial influence of art movements, art criticism and art dealers.
As the title of the film suggests - the full title is Rivers And Tides – Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time - the influence and subject, as well even as the material of Goldsworthy’s creations, are the pattern and flow of rivers and tides, the artist working within areas of natural beauty and crafting objects, patterns and constructions using the natural resources of the environment – sticks, leaves, stones, earth, moss, bracken, air, ice and water – utilising their properties in a meaningful context. His method upon receiving a commission is to investigate the area, get a feel for the environment, its conditions, the balance of light and shade, and find materials to work with in the place that reflects, enhances and brings out its natural beauty. He doesn’t bring any foreign materials to the location or use any tools but his hands, intuitively organising objects into shapes and patterns that fit into the environment, feed off it, complement it and become part of it. The objects and constructions he makes are often no more permanent than the natural flow of the environment, allowing the changes of time, tide and season to add something more than any artist could ever have the power to plan or control.
This is essentially the philosophy of his work, trying to understand the nature of the place and the materials he is working with, working hand in hand with natural objects, bringing out of them something that the ordinary eye normally would not observe or take in. Using the properties and flaws of materials like ice and leaves and the uncertainties of the weather, Goldsworthy can often see his creations fall apart in a matter of seconds, sometimes even before they are completed. This is the nature of his work and it is only through photography and through films such as this that a greater audience can appreciate the beauty and the power of what he does.
The most amazing aspect of this work, and what comes through from it in this film, is that it is the artist’s life that is his work. Andy Goldsworthy creates art in the simple act of walking from his house in the highlands down to his little local village, picking up flowers and objects on the way, on the path and at the roadside, and incorporating them into what he does. His work is therefore at oneness with what is around him and part of a bigger picture, one that takes years to achieve. In essence his work is about man and their relationship with their environment, trying to strike up a dialogue to better understand it. It’s about life and the bigger picture that our existence - impermanent and fleeting though it is - has on the greater pattern of life, stretching back into the past and taking an unknown path into the future. Goldsworthy’s obsession with the pattern of a flowing river is as much about the flow of blood through the veins, the twists and turns of a river reflecting the chaos theory patterns of life itself.
We also have the advantage in watching Reidelsheimer’s exceptionally fine film to hear from the artist himself and observe him in the act of building these miraculous creations. Goldsworthy explains what it is he does, what he is looking for, what he is trying to create and achieve, how he does it and what it means to him. It’s compelling and convincing, as is the nature of the filming, which is as fluid and delicate as the works themselves, even making use of time-lapse photography to show how his creations have a life beyond any standard kind of sculpture or construction. The eloquence of the works and the manner in which they are filmed allows the whole thing to make much more sense beyond what can be expressed through words… or reviews.
Rivers And Tides is released in the UK by Artificial Eye. The film is presented on a dual-layer disc, the DVD is Region 2 encoded and it is in PAL format.
You could hardly expect the film to look better than it does on this release, so well does it capture the qualities of the photography of Andy Goldsworthy’s work. Presented anamorphically, the print is flawless and has remarkable stability, with perfect colour balance and tone. It’s sharp, clear and accurate with a fineness of detail. The only issues here are some haloing of figures and objects set against bright skies, and the aspect ratio, which from the extra features it would appear should be 1.66:1, but here in the feature has been reframed to 1.78:1.
Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, the audio track is more than adequate for the natural sounds, narration by Andy Goldsworthy and the score that make up the soundtrack of the documentary film. All come though as clearly as you would expect. There’s little here that would give your speakers a work-out and nothing in the film that would benefit from a wider or more dynamic dispersal of sound. Other than a little bit of low-level analogue background hiss this soundtrack functions well.
There are no subtitles provided for the DVD, which is in English language, nor are there Hard of Hearing subtitles.
Effectively, the Short Films included in the extra features are deleted and extended versions of scenes that take a more detailed look at some of the pieces fleetingly seen and described in the film. Included here are The Storm King Wall (19:29), which examines in more depth a work that best captures the dialogue of permanence and impermanence within Goldsworthy’s work, but also shows more detail on the ideas and work that go into creating other pieces as well as a look at the finished product in Autumn Works (3:49), Garlic Leaves (3:04), Ice Arch (4:30), Black Stone (5:06), Leaf Works (5:42) and The Old Studio (1:56). The short films are presented non-anamorphically and are in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Also included are Biographies for Andy Goldsworthy and Thomas Reidelsheimer.
Rivers And Tides is a difficult film to describe, and I apologise if I’ve made it sound heavy and conceptual in my writing about it. But the beauty of the film and Goldsworthy’s work is that it works beyond words and descriptions, having all the beauty, innocence, simplicity and meaning of a child making a daisychain. It is also difficult to judge and rate such a film, as you are inevitably judging the artwork and rating that as much as the film, which seems a ludicrous thing to do. Fortunately, both the film and the artwork are superbly complementary and there is no conflict of interest – the film capturing the essence and beauty of Andy Goldsworthy’s work with clarity and precision, as well as bringing out and forcing you to think about why these creations have such a hypnotic and mesmerising effect. Artificial Eye typically do a terrific job with the DVD release, presenting the film exceptionally well and giving you much more of what is good about the film in the extra features.
Last updated: 19/04/2018 04:55:38