The Beauty of Lo-Fi: Ben Rivers’ Two Years At Sea

Beard horizontal, an old man lies in the undergrowth still and peaceful and waiting to one day be woken from his eternal slumber.

But we are far from the world of myths and legends and this man is not Merlin but Jake, a modern outsider given a gentle grandness by this striking debut feature.


This scene of Jake asleep is typical of a film that strives to find resonance within the everyday. Previously a subject of his short film This Is My Land, here Ben Rivers studies Jake as he lives in isolation, a hermit detached from society. As he moves through his tumbledown house and the surrounding forest we watch intently without the distraction of a narrator or any interaction from behind the camera to soften the experience.


A document that is hard to place in space or time the film feels more like a discovery dug up from the rubble of a long abandoned home. The lo-fi look is vital: the hand-processed black and white 16mm film stock gives the visuals a fuzzy energy.



The sound is also stripped of artifice so we become drawn to the miniscule. We hear the weather, the birds, the creaking of the beat-up machinery Jake uses. We become immersed and suddenly understand the cat that sits mesmerised as it watches the clanking washing machine.


A short feature composed of long takes Two Years At Sea does occasionally push its luck with its formal restraint but ultimately succeeds in taking us out of our comfort zone and into the elemental beauty of Jake’s surroundings.