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This Our Still Life Preview
Keira Brown , March 16th, 2012 05:50

Andrew Kötting's sui generis family portrait is out on DVD next week. Keira Brown takes a look

This Our Still Life is a sequel to Kent-born Andrew Kötting's 1996 documentary Gallivant, which showed his daughter Eden as a child, indulging in the beauty of Britain's coastline with two generations of relatives. The new film follows this young woman, who was born with the rare genetic disorder Joubert syndrome, at the age of 23. Her father charts their residency at Louyre, an isolated yet idyllic French Pyrenean farmhouse. The pair come alive artistically in this calming nest through the process of still life painting - a hobby they can share and mutually enjoy.

Kötting’s shaky Super 8 camerawork, meshed with digital stills, offers the viewer a window into Eden’s state of mind and the sensory delays that she suffers, such as hearing impairment. The texture of archival home video also provides a succinctly personal peep into the family's life, the glue that binds father and daughter, while inviting us to ponder deeper questions of society’s expectations. The director's choice of seasonal narrative adds to the work's poetic nature. This simple, nostalgic style is imbued with pathos, hinting at a structure that Eden can understand. Any artist can empathise with this form of assembly, looking for the seasonal changes in their subjects.

The sounds underscoring the images are similarly edited to create an audio montage, comprising what appear to be old radio recordings, indistinct voices and thespian quotes, like the famous line from Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet: "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun". Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud's dramatically morose score further supports the passionate, melancholic tone.

Footage of the farmhouse and the inspiration which emanates within suggests a paradise for Eden, considering the confines of her disability. Kötting adds blunt captions, reflecting his own thoughts and poignant admissions. The audiovisual collage allows us to take steps back from the harsh realities of life with this neurological disease. Laced with so much impressionistic imagery, its layers need to be peeled by each individual viewer.

As made clear by the sleeve note essay from author and psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, it's not so abstract a notion to employ these non-linear techniques when they are evoking conditions affecting the brain. Fragmented visuals, sound and text go hand in hand with an existence struggling to be understood. And for those who wish to more directly comprehend Joubert syndrome, the DVD extras include the 2002 short Mapping Perception: a collaboration between Kötting, producer Giles Lane and neurophysiologist Mark Lythgoe which melds science doc with art project, again placing Eden at its centre.

This Our Still Life is released by the BFI on Monday March 19; DVD details here