Documentary Film Reviews, Making Documentaries, and Nonfiction Storytelling


Rivers and Tides begins in the gray white snow where one of Andy Goldsworthy’s stone, cone shaped sculptures is seen by the water. The camera pans across a colorless, rock strewn beach. Goldsworthy appears from behind some rocks and walks to the water. He is wearing a blue parka that contrasts with the stark gray environment. The wind and water complete the scene as Goldsworthy explains his artistic philosophy. “Art for me is a form of nourishment. I need the land, I need it,” he states standing on the shore looking at the sea.

Rivers And Tides is a film, which demonstrates that a documentary may be both art and actuality. Andy Goldsworthy creates his work in natural environments with materials from nature including leaves, flower pedals, twigs, pinecones, snow, sand and stone. He has traveled the world creating installations that in some cases are reclaimed by nature immediately or within a few hours of being constructed.

Rivers and Tides offers an intimate portrait of an artist. It examines how Goldsworthy constructs a number of his sculptures and other works. At the same time the film reveals how he feels about the work he creates from materials found in nature and exhibited there. These projects include rock walls; rock sculptures, constructions made from sticks, twigs and leaves. He introduces natural colors and materials from nature to create art that reinforces and complements the environmental venues.

Since Goldsworthy works so closely with nature this documentary is also about nature and the natural order of the environment. The documentary shows how his work is connected with the land. Early scenes in the film are shot in Nova Scotia where Goldsworthy is working on a commission he has received. This environment feels untouched, reminiscent of the groundbreaking documentary Nanook of The North released in 1922. Robert Flaherty who made Nanook believed that the Inuit people of that time had a connection with the land and sea. Goldsworthy too appears to have an intimate connection with rocks, and other organic materials he touches. He speaks of the “energy and life that is running, flowing through the landscape.” Much of his work flows though the landscape, contrasting and complementing the form and shape of the earth, rivers and topography. The documentary travels with Goldsworthy to Scotland where he lives and works. This is home and he knows the land and rivers well.

Rivers and Tides is a beautifully shot work of art on it’s own. The cinematography for this film is excellent always allowing light to play its role in telling the story. Each scene is rich in detail and color. Director Thomas Riedelsheimer vision is in tune with nature and how Goldsworthy’s work integrates itself into the environment. The film manages to bring the work to the screen in a way that allows you to experience it as it was intended. It is both entertaining and informative. Music composed by Fred Firth is perfect for the story. The editing of the film and audio mix are harmonious. Rivers and Tides combines all the filmmaking elements available to the craft to create a warm and revealing portrait of an artist and his work. The fact that Goldsworthy’s work is always a part of nature makes this documentary unique and inspiring.

Rivers and Tides is a documentary that is a portrait of an artist, an exploration of nature and a documentary that is art based on actuality.

J R Martin

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