Review of Geographies of Solitude (2022)
Seen in 2023.
Zoe Lucas’s solitary work on Sable Island (literally Sand Island). She came there as an artist in 1974. In about 1982, Lucas began conducting full-time research on the island as a naturalist. When the documentary was filmed, 40 years later, she was still there.
When I viewed this at GIFF 2023, Lucas still didn’t have a Wikipedia page. This is not really a biography of her or of anyone else who’s worked on Sable Island, but it does touch often on the story of Lucas’s life. It includes audio from lectures she’s given off the island, and film from a meeting she had with Jacques Cousteau, but it is not a recounting of Lucas’s life story. Her face is only really shown with Cousteau. It is not told how much of the year she spends on the island, how often she has company there, how she eats or how she communicates. Her profound relationship with “the A-frame”, the ruin of a house on the island where she used to live, is not explored to a factual conclusion. Hard facts about Lucas are secondary. Although she is formidable, she exists here in grounded context, not as an idol. Bruno Latour would have been happy.
I highly recommend seeing Geographies of Solitude in a theatre. It is beautiful on every level: As a nature film, as a personal interview piece, as a human-ecological meditation, and as a showcase of art: Little analogue films and sounds made from the natural life on Sable Island, as well as Lucas’s own found-object art. The film strips, some exposed among plant roots and developed in seaweed, resemble the paint-on-film experiments of Norman McLaren, but they’re concrete. Kudos to the Skull Team, too.