Two Years at Sea

“A mysterious, quietly robust dream of a film… Two Years at Sea is less a documentary as such, more an impressionistic portrait, or a film poem.” — Jonathan Romney, Independent on Sunday

Director: Ben Rivers
Year: 2011
Country: UK
Running time: 86 mins
Genres: Art, Cinephiles

Producer/Photography/Editor: Ben Rivers

With: Jake Williams

Festivals: Venice, New York, Vancouver, London 2011; Rotterdam 2012

Critics’ Prize (Horizons and Critics’ Week), Venice Film Festival 2011

Ben Rivers (see also The Two Bens) typically creates observational portraits of rural fringe dwellers. His first feature takes us into the happy, solitary world of Jake Williams, living in a ramshackle old house deep in the Aberdeenshire wilds. “Rivers’ film situates itself in that popular and fertile liminal territory, not quite documentary, not quite fiction, observing Jake on his diurnal round – pottering, walking, sleeping, just staring into the fire or into space – and building in a few nice touches, which I won’t spoil. It also looks incredible; to shoot the film, Rivers bought up the final batches of his favourite black-and-white Kodak 16mm filmstock, Plus X, just before it was discontinued, and processed it by hand in his own kitchen, as is his wont. All the formal glitches on display give the film an archaic feel – and are completely integrated into the overall conception.” — Kieron Corless, Sight & Sound

“I made a shorter film about Jake called This Is My Land five years ago, and as time has passed and other films have been made, I have had a continual feeling that I should go back. The first film was based solely on observation; standing back and watching Jake go about his business in the forest. I wanted Two Years at Sea to move beyond this, so Jake and I worked on scenes that either re-enacted parts of his daily doings, or were fictions not far from his life. The film embraces the slower perception of time, following rhythms that Jake and his environment have, shot over the course of a year in all the seasons. Two Years at Sea has at its core the relationship between a person and the place they have chosen to live out their life, and the deep connection there is between them.” — Ben Rivers