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Film Scratches: Meditations on the Vine – Domain and Range (2015)

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Film Scratches focuses on the world of experimental and avant-garde film, especially as practiced by individual artists. It features a mixture of reviews, interviews, and essays.

A Review by David Finkelstein.

Domain and Range is a thoughtful, engrossing 6 minute film essay by Simon Welch, a British artist living in rural France. The film begins with the death of a lizard, run over by a farmer’s tractor. Welch uses this occasion to generate his ruminative, far-ranging essay which he reads as a voice-over, connecting the ideas of sacrifice, transubstantiation, and art. Meanwhile, we see shots of the farmer’s vineyard, close-ups of grape leaves, striking images of Valais Blackneck goats with their unusual half black, half white coloring, and various images which illustrate the text, sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely. The beautiful setting is well-photographed, make it a pleasure to watch.

DomainSideAs an essayist, Welch is a poet rather than a polemicist. He enjoys exploring a series of connected ideas, images, and thoughts, allowing them to resonate with each other poetically, but he avoids making arguments or coming to specific conclusions. This allows the ideas to be evocative without being limiting. His thoughts take him many places: his descent from a persecuted religious minority of teetotalers in England, the farmer’s descent from persecuted Protestants in France and his family’s subsequent conversion to Catholicism, the placement of Catholic shrines in French vineyards, the mystical role of wine in Catholic ceremony, the role of wine in the ancient cult of Dionysus. He neatly brings the discussion full circle by meditating once again on the lizard’s death as a sacrifice which gives rise to the aesthetic artifact of the film itself. Welch describes his discussion of theology and art with the farmer, who is a well educated and well travelled man.

The film functions, as much as anything else, as a self-portrait of Welch’s mind, his wide-ranging interests, his poetic and spiritual sensibility, and his sensitivity to his visual environment. When a person has as interesting a mind as Welch does, it is invigorating to be given a glimpse inside of it.

David Finkelstein is a filmmaker, musician, and critic. For more information on Film Scratches, or to submit an experimental film for review, contact david (at) lakeivan.org.

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