German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer's breathtakingly beautiful profile of Scottish earthworks-artist Andy Goldsworthy forgoes the conventional biographical approach but captures something far more elusive: Goldsworthy's complex relationship with his raw material — the landscape — and the natural forces that shape, and often undo, his ingenious creations. The film opens at the crack of dawn on a frozen stretch of Nova Scotia coastline where Goldsworthy has been commissioned to create a new work. What that work will be has yet to be decided: Goldsworthy must "shake hands with the place" before he can begin. Getting in touch with the landscape often leads Goldsworthy to forms learned from rivers and the sea — "obsessive forms you can't get rid of" such as the serpentine line or the eye of a whirlpool. Goldsworthy then attempts to draw out those forms using the natural materials at hand. In Nova Scotia, he nibbles icicles to form an ess curve that appears to penetrate a piece of solid rock, then mimics the turning motion of water in a salmon hole with driftwood. For a fleeting moment, the finished pieces stand in harmony with the landscape, before being dismantled by the very forces they tried to capture: the sunlight, the swirling current. In a race against the incoming tide, Goldsworthy painstakingly stacks hundreds of flat stones to build a "cairn" — a shape resembling an inverted pine cone, and one of Goldsworthy's obsessive forms — that will only stand once the artist understands the strength of the rock and the density of the sand. The completed cairn is then offered as a gift to be swallowed by the incoming sea. As Riedelsheimer follows Goldsworthy to various sites in New York State, Southern France and Penpont, Scotland, his home, we see that not all of Goldsworthy's earthworks are so impermanent. Many, such as the monumental stone wall that wends its way through the Storm King Arts Center in upstate New York, are built to last, but some of the most enchanting are the most transient: an arrangement of blackened bracken; a chain of bright green leaves floating downstream; a garland of sheep's wool atop an ancient stone wall. In the film, Goldsworthy discusses the importance of photography in capturing his work — some, like the intricate hanging lattice he constructs out of bracken and thorns, last only as long as the wind permits — and his art is here beautifully served by Riedelsheimer's impeccably composed cinematography. Fred Frith's lovely and subdued score is a perfect accompaniment.
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- Released: 2000
- Rating: NR
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- Review: German filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer's breathtakingly beautiful profile of Scottish earthworks-artist Andy Goldsworthy forgoes the conventional biographical approach but captures something far more elusive: Goldsworthy's complex relationship with his raw… (more)