April (2018, Sarah Forrest)

Some films use repeating motifs, either to establish patterns, generate mood, or enforce a point. Sarah Forrest’s April literally repeats. Midway through the film, the scene restarts, cycling again through the same set of images, sounds and lines of voiceover with which it had begun. Such an instance might seem jarring—some audience members at the Glasgow premiere suspected the film print might have got stuck—but others will find comfort in repetition. That which is familiar, after all, is often a solace.

Set in picturesque Lewis—the largest island in the Scottish Outer Hebrides archipelago—the film retails an meeting between two women, encountering each by chance in a place where solitude might be expected, detailing the sensation that the surreality (so strange to seem supernatural even) such a sighting evokes. Images, sounds, lines, feelings, once established, repeatedly return. A mountainside, a flower in bloom, a reed in the wind, the lapping of the tides. The first few bars of a song you know but can’t name.

Splintered memories give a slowly developing sense of something. Something distant, dislocated even, by design. With each recurrence, the sense solidifies, but remains ungraspable, somehow indistinct. As the encounter is retailed, the lulling poetry of the looping words is matched by similarly sedate imagery. The disco track that breaks in repeatedly, in parts, seems at odds. But the familiar is a comfort, and familiarity can be quickly achieved. As the song, glimpsed over and over, lingers at last at the film’s end, playing out in full, it finally fits. That which is familiar, after all, is often a solace; and the sensation of returning to a familiar song, is a feeling more soothing than most.

This was originally posted on the Open City Documentary Festival blog

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