A 6,000-mile journey zig-zagging around the coast of Britain, Gallivant (1996) is both an experimental travelogue and an intensely personal story. Filmmaker Andrew Kötting begins the journey to bring Gladys, his 85-year old grandmother, and Eden, his 7-year old daughter, together. Gladys’s stamina is limited, and Eden has Joubert’s syndrome: she’s not expected to live to adulthood. Both are fragile, and the journey is an opportunity which may not be repeated.
The film follows their journey chronologically, but the film is far from naturalistic. Kötting uses different film and video stocks, timelapse photography, and macro shots. He also inserts found footage and non-synchronous sound. Sometimes this is ironic: tourists looking through pay-per-view telescopes at a cliff’s edge ‘see’ what-the-butler-saw footage. Sometimes it’s dramatically beautiful: the tide rapidly sweeping out towards Lindisfarne. Unable to see through Gladys’ or Eden’s eyes, we see that the journey itself has many viewers, each with their own eyes. Eden can’t speak, but uses a limited-vocabulary sign language, and the film subtitles her commentary on the journey.
Kötting looks not for an essential quality of British life, but for its symptoms: folk culture and songs. He cajoles two old men at Port Carlisle into singing ‘Do ye ken John Peel?’, one accompanying the other on his mouth organ. At Robin Hood’s Bay, folk musician Martin Carthy gives a more professional rendering of ‘Sailing over the Dogger Bank’. In Goathland, a sword dancer explains the dance’s pagan Viking roots, and in Hastings a man tells how the Jack-in-the-Green festival has exploded in popularity. —BFI Screenonline
Andrew Kötting was born on 16 December 1958, one of five children of a middle-class family, in Farnborough, Kent. His father, like his German-born grandfather, sold belts and buckles. As a child he “spent hours off ground in trees or tending rhubarb”. He studied art at the Slade School of Art, where he found an old 16mm camera and along with a friend, Ben Woolford, began using it to capture his outdoor performance pieces. One of his first attempts at filmmaking, according to a Premiere profile, “involved inserting iron filings in the shape of religious icons into his penis and then drawing them out again”. For his degree film, a short called Klipperty Klop (1986), Kötting ran round and round a Gloucestershire field pretending to ride a horse.
Over the next ten years, Kötting directed a number of experimental shorts, often produced via the London Film-Makers Co-op. The best received were Hoi Polloi (1990), and Smart Alek (1993) – the latter being “an attempt to rework some of… read more
Gallivant remains an absolute master-class at presenting the oddities of Britain. Even if some may find the style that Kotting has brought as too quirky, it's hard to deny the truth and realism that he has managed to draw from his footage. It's highly interesting both in its reflection of human-bonds and its portrayal of quintessential British-lives (though perhaps these people would be a bit more cynical in 2013).
I am so glad that this has made it onto Mubi. I saw this movie as a teenager when it first was aired and it captivated me. Gallivant is a REAL gallivant, exploring the wackiness of the British Isles. But beautifully it is the acceptance of two humans both far in age but close in awe and wonder that truly make this documentary magical. I was also lucky enough to go to uni with David Burnand's son. Wonderful!