Bait

Director and writer: Mark Jenkin

Cast: Edward Rowe, Mary Woodvine, Simon Shepherd, Chloe Endean, Isaac Woodvine, Giles King, Georgia Ellery, Jowan Jacobs

89 mins, UK, 2019

Watched by Sarah and Ismay at the Watershed

A strange intriguing scary but at times hilarious film in old-style monochrome from Cornish director Mark Jenkin about class war in a Cornish fishing village.bait martin

Ismay: It wouldn’t have been so powerful if it had been in colour. The slow shots with ominous music kept you gripped until the end. The scene where the middle-class incomer says, ‘But we bring money and things to the area,’ and then the fisherman says, ‘Yes, but then you take it all away when you leave’ was really striking. It made me think about trips I’ve done to holiday homes and the bags of food I’ve taken with me ….

Car-parking is the sign and symptom of the barely repressed tensions that simmer beneath the quaint-looking surface of this picture-postcard fishing village in Cornwall. The incomers from London have not only bought their old fisherman’s cottage from brothers Martin and Steven – decorating the walls with the lines and nets of the brothers’ one-time family livelihood – but own the whole street, parking spaces included. bait leighsAt the beginning of the film we see this rich family arrive, mum, dad and teenage sister and brother. We follow in close-up as each item of deli food and drink, brought from the big city, is unpacked and stashed in the fridge.

Martin insists on parking his pick-up where he always has done, outside Skipper’s Cottage. Without a boat of his own he’s reduced to netting fish from the beach. Steven is still a skipper, but now he takes drunken revellers – stag parties with men wearing penis-costumes – and other tourists on day trips along the coast.

The two brothers reminded me a bit of that weird Icelandic film about the two bearded sheep-farmer brothers who haven’t spoken to each other in years. The same intensity and silent passion.

Everyone, older generation and younger, is knotted into a net of tension.bait w neil

The film, shot on an old 16 mm Bolex camera, is in flickering grainy monochrome. Part of its strangeness perhaps lies in the 60s documentary-style through which it tells a very 21st century story. Jenkin moves the camera from one close-up to another, pulling us into an extraordinary intimacy with his characters, all of whom are on edge; and some indeed on the edge, of rage, resentment, violence. Their faces – especially the eyes – speak volumes.

Behind the heart-thuddingly ominous score (also by Mark Jenkin), the sounds of everyday seaside life take on their own heart-thudding ominousness, from the slap of waves against the harbour walls to the crunch of boots across shingle. You know something bad is going to happen. This is class war.bait with nets

‘a genuine modern masterpiece,’ said Mark Kermode in the Guardian. I completely agree.

 

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