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The Whalebone Box

****
2020

‘…The Whalebone Box is more about the journey than the destination, and about enjoying a journey with no prescriptive route….’

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.

THE WHALEBONE BOX – LE

Comments

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  1. Oh! No! Agree with Fraggle. This… no.

    However, a skull smashing competition involving Booky, you, Braveheart, The Virgin Mary and Robbie Collin? Well, that’s a different story…

  2. Sorry, I have a strict “human bones only” policy when it comes to my secret boxes. I think this movie is prejudiced against me and others like minded.

    I wonder if it’s too late to stage some sort of protest movement? We’d throw skulls at people we don’t like and scream how enlightened we are and how society is keeping us down. Good luck throwing big honking whale bones around!

    • I kind of feel that the proposed movement you describe already exists. I have previously offered to partly crush your skill and drink from it like a goblet, and I’m not sure what more I can do. It’s a generous offer on my part.

        • There’s a bit more to it than that. The soundtrack is out on disc, so maybe it will top the charts after all. Maybe not, I don’t think that was what the film-makers were going for. I’d say you really need to look back on the film’s journey to get it, it’s not a commercial proposition, more personal than that.

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