Scores (Out of 5):
Slowness (Film's): 2.5
Slowness (Zanna's): 5
The movie had finished - as it had begun, as it had continued for 89 minutes - strangely, and now Zanna was trying to say something about that:
"It uses that Russian thing … that Russian style ... I forgot what it's called …. Ugh! This Russian guy ... Very well known!"
I had no idea what or who she was talking about and she was taking an astonishingly long time to say it. I was bored, so I started making "funny" suggestions: Boris Karloff, Gorbachev, our brother-in-law. This sort of thing would normally drive her crazy but she calmly said "no, no, no" and kept thinking. I found it unsettling to see her so agreeable.
It was obvious she would never figure it out, so I interrupted and said I loved the movie and found it exciting that I never quite knew what was happening or where it was going. I said we have a societal misconception about the word "excitement", believing it to mean action and explosions, when really it's about uncertainty and the thrill of the new.
"That's interesting," Zanna said in reply, "because I didn't like it."
This was more like her.
She said: "I had the opposite view." That was implicit in the previous sentence but still, maybe, useful for clarity.
She repeated, "I had the opposite view," this time presumably just for the thrill.
She went on: "It was hard to look past the stylisation. That, to me, felt like a gimmick. Those extreme close-ups on the face, the very minimal dialogue, the … not really bad acting, but just …"
I interrupted: "All movie-making is artifice and you're just saying there's a particular type of artifice we've accepted as the standard and because that was different from it, you've got a problem with it - you find it pretentious or something."
The capacity for interpretation of the film was huge. It was a giant opening, a tiny social scene on to which to project all our hopes and fears. It was the battle and thrill of humanity, people for and against each other and nature and systemic forces beyond their control.
She said: "I appreciated that it was doing something different, that the film-maker had a creative vision but ultimately I found it a bit boring."
"It wasn't boring at all," I said.
Boring/not boring: the dichotomy to which we reduced the most extraordinary film I've seen in years. The next day Zanna told me the Russian was Sergei Eisenstein. I suspect she'd googled it.
Pretty quickly into our discussion about Bait, Greg started explaining to me what makes something good. We've had this fruitless discussion umpteen times in our marriage: Greg believes things are objectively good and bad and I believe everything is subjective, that we live in an infinite grey abyss - I'm very black and white about that.
Greg thought Bait was objectively good. I thought I was back in Film Studies 101, watching films that are "important", "seminal", "groundbreaking" but ultimately boring. What I'm revealing about myself is that I'm a philistine - something I've worked hard to keep private but can no longer be bothered denying. These are unprecedented times.
This film is very slow. It's probably best described as worthy. Film-maker Mark Jenkin is without doubt an auteur. He wrote, directed, edited and was the cinematographer on Bait, which he shot on 16mm film that he hand-processed. He had a vision and he quite literally didn't want anyone else touching that vision.
The film is shot entirely on a vintage hand-cranked Bolex camera that doesn't record synched sound, so the film has the aesthetic of early cinema. It does feel interesting but also distancing. I didn't feel emotionally connected to the two brothers at the centre of this story because I was too distracted by the artifice of the old camera and salient ADR, however meaningful those choices were.
Despite its relatively slow pace, this is not a film you can drift in and out of or check Facebook during. Every shot is very deliberate, dialogue is minimal and Jenkin skillfully uses unexpected combinations of images to foreshadow future events, which keeps you on your toes.
Plot twist: I think I would enjoy this film more on a second viewing. There's an artfully composed and relevant story about class and modernisation here that I was too busy being bored to fully absorb. What I mean is: this film asks the viewer to do quite a lot of work and at this time in my life I'm almost always coming to a movie exhausted and over it and not really willing to do any work beyond breaking off squares of Lindt Excellence Raspberry Intense Dark and taking out my hair tie so Greg can stroke my hair.
Next time round I might even agree with Greg that Bait is good: Subjectively good, of course. Then again, there probably won't be a next time.
Bait is in cinemas now.