Text: David Perrin
Finally, a film that does not feel like a weight on your chest; that does not set out to pound you back into your seat in an attempt to coerce you into believing that the world beyond the screen has ceased to exist, that it has somehow miraculously folded itself up like a three-dimensional board game and vanished into thin air. Nowadays (or perhaps it has always been like this), it seems like most films are like that: little burdensome weights that press all the air out of you, leaving you empty and stumbling around in the dark with nothing to see and nothing to hear, and you wonder how or why you ever decided to dedicate the hours and the days of your life to cinema. As one critic turned filmmaker once wrote regarding a particularly dreadful moviegoing experience: “There was nothing to see; the whole screen was full of it.”
The Anchorage by C.W. Winter and Anders Edström is not such a film. Here, the world soothingly drapes itself around you like a delicate piece of silk, a film of such ostensible lightness, you fear that a gentle gust of wind would be enough to blow it away off the screen. So, what is there to see? Three days at the end of October in the life of a 69-year-old woman named Ulla, living alone in a house in the woods in the Stockholm Archipelago; the slow, thoughtful rhythm of her movements as she cuts off the branches of a felled tree with a chainsaw; as she disentangles the fish caught in a net gleaming in the afternoon sun, the incessant wind wrapping the net around her like a transparent cape or cocoon; the gradual opening up of the day as the light begins to slowly break over the forest terrain, the colors of the dawn blending seamlessly with the color of her pink robe, while she makes her way towards the shore, where she disrobes and slips naked into the cold water as if it too were her natural element. You see her from afar standing on a pier, her back to the camera as she watches and waves towards a ferry carrying two of her friends pushing offshore, the boat slowly moving out of the frame and above her a slate of grey sky imminent with rain and below her the waves of displaced water lapping against the pier. Most of all, though, you can see and hear the wind blowing through the landscape, can see and hear the beauty of the wind rustling the branches of the birch and pine trees (as Griffith once so beautifully defined cinema); can see and hear how it breathes in the tall grass and brush of the forest, how it makes a red swing sway slightly in the early evening gloom, how it rushes across the pacific surface of the sea, how it defines and gives shape to this weathered landscape dotted with lone figures sunk in the everydayness of things.
Brief diary entries punctuate each day, jotted down scraps detailing the daily minutiae, the throw-away thoughts and observations that run through Ulla’s head, which when added together make up the surface of her life: recurring dreams of snowfall, the singing of the larks late into the season, the arrival and departure of friends, plans for dinner, the solitude and the weather. The quiet drift of her days is subtlety disrupted by the arrival of a stranger, presumably a hunter, whose boat is anchored just offshore from where she goes for her morning swims. But this ‘plot shift’ occurs at such a low frequency, that it barely registers as an event. The apparent intruder in the terrain is reduced to a faceless figure trudging through the woods at night, a specter glimpsed briefly through a window, his only discernible feature being the yellow of his safety jacket, which shines forth out of the darkness of the forest.
And what else? The feeling of the landscape as a clearly defined space – a result of the camera positioned as a faraway, unintrusive observer, often framing Ulla in full-body shots as she moves through the land or her home. This distance between camera and subject becomes a kind of breathing ground, a space to lean into from your seat that allows you the simple, yet incomparable joy of looking and listening: see the play of sunlight upon the branches of the birch trees as she walk through the forest, a single red spot amidst all that green and grey; hear the creak of the front door of the house as it is gently pushed shut by an afternoon breeze, while the larks call out to each other from across the tree tops and somewhere off the water churns in the wind.
What else? A sense of waiting and of the world rushing in, a sense that this is all there is and nothing else. And afterwards you imagine the feel of the warm wind in your face, brushing against your temples like a tender caress and you ask yourself: is that a storm coming or is it merely the arrival of a new season?