Caught by the River

Weather Words

Adam Scovell | 1st September 2018

Adam Scovell introduces his new film ‘Weather Words’ – a collaboration with Colin Riley, Robert Macfarlane and Rosalind Jana.

“Words act as compass,” Robert Macfarlane suggests, “place speech serves literally to enchant the land; to sing it back into being and to sing one’s being back into it.” This is the opening monologue for the track, Weather Words, made with composer Colin Riley as part of the In Place project. Colin reached out like a spectre through the internet a while ago, asking to visually respond to a track on this album, on which all of the music looks at our various relationships with place and landscape. Though already keen on Robert’s Landmarks book and the importance of words generally, there was something in the music that stepped further away from representation of rain or wind: something more ritualistic, more in line with the opening speech regarding enchantment rather than etymology.  It’s why I chose this particular track in the end.

Weather Words uses as its lyrics many of the words gathered in Robert’s word hoard. The first initial thought when finally deciding on the track was to simply respond to such words with their equivalent weather. But this was already the music’s role and doubling it up would have been a heavy-handed mistake. There was something else in the music, far more abstract and eerie, that chimed with several images in mind. I thought of Maya Deren’s Meshes Of The Afternoon with its mirrors, of the slow-motion of David Gladwell’s short Untitled film and, finally, of Derek Jarman’s short film, Journey To Avebury. The latter is clearly the most important though Jarman played on my mind more generally, if only due to the music’s moments of semblance to Simon Fisher Turner’s work.

Exploring on this ritual meant Avebury and Silbury Hill became key. Finding much crossover with model and writer, Rosalind Jana, especially in our shared desire to release some inner “red dress” Kate Bush, we travelled to the famous Neolithic stones and acted out our own ceremony, responding to the music and to the environment. If the body worked in rhythm with the tones and dynamics of the music, then logically the weather would also in some way be perceivably there, personified in Rosalind’s Picnic At Hanging Rock styling and possessed movements. Aside from some unusual looks from travelling lorry drivers on the ever-busy road, the shoot was simple. We were treated to all forms of weather though the super-8 footage was incapable of showing it; only Rosalind’s movements denote such changes.

The filming finished on top of the West Kennet Longbarrow. The poppies were in full flower and the barrow’s hillside shimmered with colour. There was something unspoken in this shoot, as if its natural rhythm was conjuring something, perhaps the “sacred demon of ungovernableness,” as suggested in Alan Clarke’s Penda’s Fen; another play that is given an overt visual homage in Weather Words. It can be difficult to describe your feelings regarding your own work, especially as there are unavoidable limitations when working on celluloid at this level. But hopefully within the strange, grainy images, there is some essence of the land and its more ineffable, unnerving qualities; a re-enchantment of fields and their barbed wire fences, come rain or shine.