Tait’s debut feature is a haunting and magical film about a daughter’s attempts to come to terms with her mother’s mysterious death, not only through examining her own childhood memories but also going back further in time, to tales of her mother’s own childhood.
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A fine film to revive at the centenary of Tait’s birth, developing the evocations of place and time in her earlier films e.g. “Where I Am Is Here” to a feature exploring pressures of family on the situations of women across the generations, their words and intent marginalised and unresolved. Only the last 90s Edinburgh segment with Barbara, Philip and the (ever-youthful) painter feels a bit misplaced.
To look back into our childhood is to look into the eye of what we've lost: we sleepwalk into bigger and darker rooms where storms are louder & a stain is a mermaid or a deadly portent. Margaret Tait obscenely melancholic camera renders fragility & intimacy with every frame, trying to grasp what is staring back at us from that blue black permament sea of impetuous memories.
Some memories from our childhood, even though hazy, may be so deep rooted in us, that they become fundamental to our identity. It’s always fulfilling to trace these memories back and discover/uncover their secrets. And to trace back your own history which you were unaware of.
"making film poems" was actually, and according to Tait, her aim as filmmaker which, from the almost nothing i know from her, it's an absolute pleasure in short duration format - in fact, to better know her work would be a priority that i feel right now. However, this film adds an intricate fiction of 3 generations that incurs in academicism. Remains a few good moments of "poeticity" without human figures.
A film about memory (personal and inherited) and the effects of mental illness across generations which unfortunately underwhelms in its ability to deftly move between those generations - the early part of the film's 'modern' section, with Barbara telling her boyfriend about her mother, feels like the worst sort of framing narrative, and only later in the film does her story find its footing.