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Two Years at Sea

Two Years at Sea (still), Ben Rivers

Two Years at Sea

April 25, 2012

To those familiar with Ben Rivers' work, the opening shot of Two Years at Sea – the back of a long-haired man with a backpack trudging through a grainy widescreen winter landscape – comes as no surprise, and indeed we soon recognize the man and his environs from Rivers' 2006 film This is My Land. While that earlier film is an affecting glimpse of an eccentric character, Two Years at Sea is something entirely different and marks a great step forward for Rivers, a distillation of the concerns of much of his previous work played out on a monumental scale.

Resolutely cinematic, Two Years at Sea was shot, like many of Rivers' previous films, with a 16mm camera equipped with an anamorphic lens. Rivers then hand processed much of the footage and blew up the finished film to 35mm. This technique results in a film that has a grainy uneven shimmering quality, an image that appears to be the direct imprint of the landscape depicted, with all the variations of weather temperature and humidity embossed on the emulsion. The unique texture of the film contributes to its enigmatic timeless quality that simultaneously seems to offer a glimpse of a post-apocalyptic future, a radical past, or an alternative present.

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