Review of ‘By Our Selves’: Film Screening at BARS 2015

By Honor Rieley

We continue our Romantic Imprints retrospective with a review of the special screening of By Our Selves held at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff during the conference. Many thanks to Erin Lafford of the University of Oxford for these thoughts on the film!

‘John Clare was a minor nature poet who went mad’. This statement, uttered in a crisp RP accent, is one of the most memorable soundbites from By Our Selves, a recent film release by Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair that re-traces the steps of John Clare’s escape from High Beech asylum in Epping Forest in 1841, back to his home in Northborough. An 80 mile walk reduced to ten words, which in one sense sum up the story that Kötting and Sinclair are trying to tell as much as they only begin to scratch the surface of the film’s affective and revisionary power. They become a refrain that recurs throughout the film, its frosty enunciation emerging starkly from a sonic patchwork of birdsong, muttered snatches of Clare’s poetry, letters, and journal entries, folk music, the haunting strains of Mary Joyce (played eerily by performance artist and poet MacGillivray), traffic noise, the whir of wind farms, telephone conversations, ominous …read more