Translated as ‘Stone Island’ in Cornish, it is hard to imagine a more pertinent film than Enys Men to screen with the everpresent Drake’s Island as a backdrop at Open Air Cinema at Tinside Lido.
A film which critic Adam Scovell described as an “anti-romantic expression of Cornish eeriness,” Enys Men follows the seemingly mundane, repetitive routine of the sole inhabitant of a remote island as she monitors and ritualistically documents a crop of delicate flowers.
Director Mark Jenkin builds an unusual sense of tension and unease within the repetition and mundanity of the routine the audience follows, however as the film unfolds the lines between ordinary reality and ‘other’ are blurred. The crackle of her singular mode of contact with the mainland, a radio, is just part of a rich patchwork which blends nostalgia and forces of nature, immersing the audience within Cornwall of the 1970s but also its rich and tough history. The haunting faces of miners working deep beneath the islands’ surface peer up at our protagonist and specters of a splintered boat wreck appear on the treacherous rocks. Of the few lines of dialogue in the film, “can you hear me,” “is anybody there,” spoken over the radio are apt reminders that she is in fact, physically, ‘alone’
However, Jenkin’s film speaks to the memory of geography, heritage and tragedy, all of which never truly leave us ‘alone.’ Though physically isolated, the stone island embodies the history of Cornwall, traces of which will be ever present. The county, the star of the film, in our peripheral vision just over sight of Plymouth Sound, we are able to watch the film fully immersed in the atmosphere that Jenkins builds. Plymouth’s own history is inextricable from the sea and with our shared coast this film feels close to home.
Enys Men is screening at Tinside Lido on Sunday 13th August. Tickets are available here: https://plymouthartscinema.org/whats-on/enys-men-15-open-air-cinema-at-tinside-lido/
By Alice Clarke