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FILM OF THE WEEK Magical mystery tour mystifies

MARIA DUARTE sees a baffling drama-documentary about the journey of a whalebone box

The Whalebone Box (12A)
Directed by Andrew Kotting

JUST when you thought life could not get more surreal comes a truly bizarre film about a box made out of whalebone from British artist and film-maker Andrew Kotting.

In it, he embarks on a road trip with writer and film-maker Iain Sinclair and pinhole photographer Anonymous Bosch to take the box from London, via the Pyrenees, to the Island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides where it originated from.

Described as a magic box which belonged to another time and another place, it had been given to Sinclair 25 years ago by sculptor Steve Dilworth, who lived on the Scottish island. Inside, it may contain the dreams you have lost. No-one knows what is in it but it must not be opened at any cost.

Narrated by Kotting's daughter Eden, who also takes a leading role in the film, the documentary is divided into chapters whose titles are as enigmatic as the film itself as a visually arresting existential ride gathers pace.

There's a never-ending collage of eclectic images and archive film footage, interwoven with interviews and commentary from Sinclair and Kotting, broken up with random shots of Eden Kotting asleep in bed or dressed as a Russian peasant girl/Morris dancer.

Sitting in an armchair in the middle of the woods and holding a rifle in her lap, she's accompanied by strange wailing screams from a mermaid.

The film has very much a late-’60s feel as you watch the box's journey uphill, through snow-filled terrain and on the dashboard of a car heading north. It seems like you are watching a moving-art installation on film which doesn't add up.

Hypnotic and exceptionally weird, there's an ongoing diatribe of what comes across as pseudo- intellectual trains of thought.

Some may see it as a work of art, others as pretentious art-house nonsense. As Eden Kotting, says: “The further north they all travel, the more incoherent the narrative becomes.” Quite.

This definitely won't be right down everyone's alley and it may well be an acquired taste, but if you managed to stay watching until the bitter end there is an extra twist after the final credits

Exclusive VOD release on MUBI.

 

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