What a relief to be sitting in an actual theatre watching something where no one mentions the 'C word', unless it's Cornwall that is.
These ethereal singers were like sirens
We already know that BAIT, Cornish film-maker Mark Jenkin’s exquisite feature film about the tensions between local fishermen and their fair-weather neighbours is a hit - it has a BAFTA to prove it - but teaming it with a live score from award-winning musician Gwenno Saunders and composer and musician Georgia Ellery is an addition that surely adds to its mastery.
It can often be difficult with a live score to fully engross yourself in the film when it’s so tempting to watch the musicians at work; yet these ethereal singers were like sirens luring us into the doom of the rocky situation that was unfolding on screen. When I was momentarily distracted by the sheen of an old record being taken from its case, I was reminded to appreciate the fact that these beautiful sounds were being mixed and performed live. This really did make it a special event.
For those with a more technical mind, the film was captured on 100ft rolls of B&W Kodak stock using a 1976 16mm clockwork Bolex camera, not an easy feat as such an antique will only give a maximum of 28 seconds per take, but it was perfect in setting up the tension of the piece.
The use of black and white film mirrored the detail of the piece, as everything seemed to be set up in oppositions. The tourists were dressed in shorts and t-shirts, enjoying their halcyon days, while their fisherman contemporaries were wrapped up in layers and big boots ready for a day’s work at dawn. The comparisons were stark, tradition versus modernisation, pride versus practicality and woe betide anyone who tried to occupy the area in between. The film’s anti-hero Mark made his opinions very clear about the "sh*t pub" occupied by young tourists and his family fishing boat that had been coopted by his brother to meet the demands of stag parties and holidaymakers.
There was a real sense of desperation in the people trying to survive in a place where they are doomed to seasonal work, yet treated as traitors by those who wanted to uphold the traditional industries of this tiny fishing village.
The caricature of the evil capitalist, monopolising on the offerings of the area before speeding off once the sun has set, was perfectly encapsulated by Hugo, the privileged part-timer, propped up by his parents, who has never worked a day in his life. Scorned by the fishermen for his pathetic but probably pricey wetsuit and fishing spear, he represented everything that was wrong with the 'new', taking what he wanted without any thoughts of repercussion, his actions ultimately led to the shocking end of hope in this withering community.
The clunkiness of the acting by some of the extras brought a raw reality to the film, as if they were just people going about their day, not over acting, and full of imperfection. This was enhanced by the crackling and scratching of the vinyl and plucking of the violin, in perfect time with the creases and white flashes in the film.
The timeless quality of the film was betrayed by small clues such as the vehicles the out of towners were driving and their use of Apple Macs but just as the live musicians were fusing the old (vinyl) and the new (synths), this outstanding example of British Realism highlights the present struggles of traditional ways of life being lost by the need to survive.
A very moving film that used live performance perfectly to produce the ebb and flow of emotions necessary to understanding such an unhappy plight.