Two Years at Sea (4 stars)

Two Years at Sea

Meditative documentary about recluse Jake Williams, from British artist Ben Rivers

Artist and filmmaker Ben Rivers’ debut feature film, Two Years At Sea is a handsome and meditative documentary about Jake Williams, a man living an isolated existence in northern Scotland.

Shot on textured 16mm black and white film, Rivers captures the most breathtaking of images. From the intimate moment of Jake bathing beneath a home made shower to the dreamlike shot of him laid out on a homemade raft. Without voiceover or dialogue and through a slightly distant observatory style (there are no interviews here) the film gradually submerges you into the rhythm of Jake’s way of life. The sounds too are bewitching: interrupting the tones of the surrounding countryside are the surprising sound of scratchy songs from Jake’s record player.

Rivers’ past work has also been preoccupied with outsiders and society’s recluses and here, again, the filmmaker offers us the chance to get to know a character that we would rarely otherwise meet. In a world where ‘sharing’ our lives has become the norm there is something wonderfully honest and uplifting about seeing a life which unfolds, for the most part, whilst no one is watching.


Two Years at Sea

  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • UK
  • 1h 28min
  • Directed by: Ben Rivers
  • UK release: 4 May 2012

Documentary about Jake Williams, a man living an isolated existence in northern Scotland. Rivers' debut feature has no voiceover or dialogue – there are no interviews with Williams – but with breathtaking images and a bewitching soundtrack, it's a handsome and meditative film, ultimately honest and uplifting.

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