Two filmmakers, John (John Rowley) and Tom (Tom Metcalfe), are in Hackney Wick, looking to film an avant-garde telling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which then becomes a documentary about the area and the people, but not really. Or something. Honestly, this is a hard one to sum up, because it’s one strange film.
It’s also a great film, depending on your sensibilities. As a deconstruction of indie filmmaking, industrial progress and decline, the artist lifestyle, documentaries and even the 2012 Olympics, the film achieves that experimental quality the filmmakers profess they are going for as we watch them suffer through their own artistic adventures. And often they suffer silently, as the film revels in a very dry sense of humor lathered in absurd, quiet repetition.
Which is part of what makes The Wick – Dispatches from the Isle of Wonder so odd; for much of the film’s first act, as it were, the two filmmakers say nothing, and do little but listen to weather reports on the radio, waiting for it to rain. It is only when one of them has an epiphany to go a different direction for their film do we even get the clear sense that they’re making a film. It’s like a Darwinian challenge for the audience; make it beyond that first act, and you’re in it for the long haul.
All along, the film works as a strange travelogue of Hackney Wick, an area that was once an industrial powerhouse, supposedly houses more artists than anywhere else in the world, but consistently, throughout the film, appears to be abandoned save for John and Tom. At the same time, the Olympics are setting up shop right down the road, and this seemingly desolate landscape is suddenly the center of the world… and you still don’t see anyone on the streets.
The Wick – Dispatches from the Isle of Wonder is not for everyone. It’s going to take a certain sort who can handle a quiet boil of a film to truly appreciate it, but if you’re that sort, you’re in for a treat. I personally loved the film, though I admit it will be an acquired taste.
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