A peek into the life of writer W.G. Sebald and his vision of a world irradiated with melancholy.
The late W.G. Sebald was a German expatriate whose extraordinary books — uncategorisable blends of travelogue, history, fiction and a cri de coeur
against mankind’s capacity for genocide — have elevated him to mystic status. In simple terms, he took epic pilgrimages across East Anglia drawing forth strange stories from the landscape: a world “irradiated with melancholy”. Director Grant Gee retraces Sebald’s footsteps for a halfway effective “aesthetic response” to his writing — a literary pop video of monochrome imagery that falls short of the grace of his prose. The value of the piece lies in the narration, an exploration of the writer’s troubling vision by reverent novelists, artists, architects and poets, including rare snatches of Sebald’s becalmed voice as if from beyond the grave.
With so many films adapted from novels, it's nice to see cinema paying homage to unheralded greats of literature like Sebald. While this one often struggles to do justice to his sense of grandeur and poetry, it'll be manna for fans of the German's work.
Reviewed by Ian Nathan