Andrew Kötting may not have the public profile of a Guy Ritchie or a Christopher Nolan, but he’s no less a part of British cinema. I first met Andrew when doing a Q and A for his feature film Gallivant, which took its name for the traditional German word for ‘’gallivanting’ ie going to a jaunt for fun. Kötting’s work is incredibly personal, and it’s almost impossible to view his work objectively, since his subject is often himself and his family. Gallivant saw Kötting travel around the UK with his daughter Eden and mother Gladys, while this latest film depicts a road trip inspired by the now grown-up Eden, who waits at home this time.
Eden has a condition called Joubert syndrome; while this restricts her movements, it doesn’t restrict her imagination, and the film focuses on a Whalebone Box that caught her attention. Eden imagines what’s in the box, and suggests that it should be returned to the Scottish coast where the bone originally came from. Kötting takes off with writer Ian Sinclair, who was originally given the box by an artist from the Isle of Harris, and they take a journey that’s recorded in a jagged, sometimes hypnotic collage of footage of various types, from video to 16mm, before eventually returning into them to Eden.
The Whalebone Box is an assuredly poetic film, given to diversions and very much an art-house piece; there are pretentions here, sure, but the animations and interludes turns out to be firmly fixed to the central idea. What’s in the box is unknown, and that mystery keeps us engaged; as we watch Eden in a dream state, we are as much in the dark about the contents as she is. But The Whalebone Box is more about the journey than the destination, and about enjoying a journey with no prescriptive route.
On blu-ray as part of the expanding Anti-Worlds imprint, The Whalebone Box is one of their more accessible efforts so far, by dint of an observable, loving relationship at it centre, and the warm friendships of those seen in front of the camera. This is a tough watch in places, forcing up to get involved with a strange, mystical trip that seems to hark back to a past that none of us can remember. It’s a striking, unconventional story that provides a valuable update for fans of Kötting’s original lines of thought, or as a dynamic introduction to his work.
The Whalebone Box is out now in the UK on blu-ray on the Anti-Worlds imprint.
Links below. Thanks to Zoe Flower and Anti-Worlds for blu-ray access.