The Anchorage, Art Cinema, and the Consolations of the Rural Lifestyle

by |
09/16/2010 11:17 AM |

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In The Anchorage, which plays for a week at Anthology Film Archives beginning tomorrow, Ulla Edström—mother of the photographer Anders Edström, who codirected with C.W. Winter—plays a middle-aged woman much like herself; we spend three late-autumn days not so much watching as falling into the rhythm of her life on an island off Sweden’s Baltic coast.

First as her daughter and his boyfriend (dropped into the last day of their visit, we extrapolate the relationship), and then alone, Ulla does chores—clearing downed trees, cleaning gutters, gutting fish, shopping—and enjoys leisure—eating, reading, listening to quiz shows and news programs on Swedish public radio. For the three early mornings opening, bisecting and closing the film, we watch her walk through a series of static long shots, the bible-black pre-dawn gradually lightening as she walks through the woods to the ocean for her daily skinny-dip.

The title perhaps refers to the hunters who’ve docked their motorboat near Ulla’s and who can sometimes be glimpsed cutting through her yard. Their presence, in a way, underscores her solitude—the loneliness of her lifestyle is a faint ripple within the film’s placid long shots of Ulla existing in the center, or the margins, of her habitat, but we’re able to pick the ripple out because the film, with its meditative pace and focus on the repetition and responsiveness of rural life, is inviting us to be more attuned to subtleties, particularly minute variations in climate, wind, light. Ozu-like close-ups of eloquently solitary, functional objects underscore the sense of profound self-sufficiency; calming and melancholy, The Anchorage is a more holistic, practical variation on the international art-house minimalist aesthetic.