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Intentional or not, “Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy” is a great bedtime watch

Andy Goldsworthy in LEANING INTO THE WIND, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo Credit: Thomas Riedelsheime, all rights reserved.

In a world full of videos of crackling fireplaces, crickets chirping and ethereal soundtracks played over a night sky, viewers and listeners have plenty of resources for finding sleep aids online. However, these videos usually have no substantial purpose besides lulling the listener to sleep.

In creating a documentary about the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, director and cinematographer Thomas Riedelsheimer has managed to achieve a middle ground between an engaging artist profile and a sleep-inducing, trance-like film.

The documentary follows Goldsworthy on his many ventures around the world from the hills of San Francisco, to the highlands of Scotland and rainforests of Brazil, he takes elements of the surrounding environments and transforms them into extraordinary pieces of art. The film opens with him exploring a house in Brazil constructed by the inhabitants. Looking around their home and complimenting them on their “beautiful” clay floor, Goldsworthy takes note as the the rustic couple describe the process.

In this first scene alone the viewer begins to see the cogs turning in Goldsworthy’s head, an insight into this artist’s process. A British-born man in his 60s, he is very soft-spoken, and not very forthcoming with information. He is hardly the ideal figure for a documentary on his own, so the filmmakers compensate for his banality with in-depth looks at his process as he constructs pieces out of rocks and clay and cuts them into stone.

Due to Goldsworthy’s lack of insight, there is little to be talked about in the form of a narrative. The documentary acts more as a set of vignettes about the artist’s more recent pieces. These sculptures are a collaborative effort that passes through many hands, from hired workers to his daughter and assistant, Holly. There are no stakes, no obvious conflicts; just a man and his art.

This cannot be appreciated as a traditional documentary where there seems to be some semblance of a structure and narrative draw. It has neither. The only accompaniment to this film that is worth mentioning is the score by Fred Frith, which is just as much a character in the documentary as Goldsworthy himself. Without it, the viewer would be subjected to silence, noises from a construction site and the occasional interjections by Goldsworthy.

This documentary was certainly an experience, and is probably a must-watch for fans of Goldsworthy’s work. But for the rest of us, unless you’re in need of something other than crackling fires and chirping crickets to put you to sleep, this is one you can skip. With little-to-no introspection into the life of the artist or his motivation (besides his sheer wonder at the natural beauty of the world), the film is not far off from a glorified desktop background.

Grade: C-

bermer@theeagleonline.com


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