Posted January 19, 2012 by David Watson in Films

Patience (After Sebald)

A cynical man (Who am I kidding? I am that man) might posit the notion that the cure for emptiness does not lie in East Anglia.

“In August 1992, when the dog days were drawing to an end, I set off to
walk the county of Suffolk, in the hope of dispelling the emptiness that takes
hold of me whenever I have completed a long stint of work.”

Extract from The Rings Of Saturn by W.G.

A cynical man (Who am I
kidding? I am that man) might
posit the notion that the cure for emptiness does not lie in East Anglia.

Described as “A richly textured essay film on
landscape, art, history, life and loss,” Patience (After Sebald) is an
art film that screams ART in capital letters.

Coming ten years after the author W.G.
Max Sebald
’s untimely death in a car crash and inspired by his most
influential and best known work 1995’s The Rings Of Saturn, the film
explores Sebald’s work by retracing his steps and documenting his wander round
Suffolk, extracts from the book, read by Jonathan Pryce, serving as
narration while various academics, artists and writers (among them Marina
, Iain Sinclair and Andrew Motion) comment on Sebald;
his life, his work and what his legacy means to them.

A German who settled in Suffolk
and became Chair of European Literature at Norwich’s University of East Anglia,
Sebald is no easy read. He once
wrote a 9 page long sentence for God’s sake! Writing in German (his work being translated into English),
his work deals with memory, perception, decay and the attempt to reconcile
himself with the Holocaust and the Second World War. Existing in a no-man’s land somewhere between fact, fiction,
memoir and travelogue, his works are most easily defined as novels and are
often punctuated by stark black and white photos he took on his contemplative

Owing a huge debt to the work of Chris
, Grant Gee has fashioned a dull film, it’s pedestrian black
and white imagery echoing but never quite equaling Sebald’s own stark, grainy
photographs. The film neither
illuminates his subject nor inspires curiosity. If you’re a fan of Sebald’s work, this film will add nothing
to your understanding and appreciation of his work. If you’re not a fan, you’re not going to be hitting the
bookshops looking for a copy of The Rings Of Saturn any time soon.

It’s a tedious, soporific affair
which inspires sleep more than anything else, Gee’s commentator’s adding little
insight to Sebald’s opaque work.
British author and filmmaker Iain Sinclair (whose own work similarly
mixes poetry, fiction and essay) recollects once sharing a lift with Sebald.

That’s it!

That’s the sum of the story!

He once was in the same lift as
his literary hero and now wishes he had
spoken to him! THEY WERE IN THE
that’s one of the more interesting contributions to the film.

It’s a shame that an author whose
work is so intrinsically concerned with perception and memory has inspired
quite such an unmemorable film.
Like the Suffolk countryside it showcases, Patience (After Sebald) is bland, featureless and entirely forgettable.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: