Robert Flaherty’s 1934 pseudo-documentary depicting life on the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland was brought to life by British band British Sea Power, who provided a soundtrack to the silent film.
Flaherty’s film was full of drama and adventure and captured the raw beauty of this rugged landscape. There were only a few peaceful moments indoors with the rest shot outdoors, showing the difficulty of life and the ever-present danger of an unforgiving sea.
It was a fascinating glimpse into a lost way of life and a society living in pre-modern conditions. The boy in the film was particularly charming, keeping a crab in his hat and trying to go out on the boats with the men, his eyes bulging at the sight of the shark. The happiness of the man of Aran and his family, despite their daily struggle for survival, was a powerful message.
The aptly named British Sea Power faced the screen rather than the audience and played the 12 tracks using a huge range of instruments and electronic sounds to create atmosphere and communicate tension, emotion and drama. For a first-time listener, their music was accessible and flowed like the sea – wild and powerful one moment and calm and beautiful the next.
My only criticism of the experience was that the band obscured the captioning at the bottom of the screen, meaning I had to crane to see a few words or just be content to sit back and watch the pictures.
I left the Astor Theatre feeling a little more grateful for my life, knowing I wouldn’t have to hunt down a man-eating shark in treacherous seas to get some oil to light my lamp and cart basketfuls of soil across barren, windy cliff tops to make a small garden to grow some potatoes to feed my family.
Perth International Arts Festival 2010 presents Man Of Aran British Sea Power
Beck's Music Box - 17 Feb The Astor Theatre - 18 Feb Tickets: $37 / $40 Bookings: www.bocsticketing.com.au | BocsTicketing 1800 193 300
The bewildering confusion between dream and reality begins before one takes one’s seat in the theatre. You have to negotiate a building site and enter the Adelaide Festival Theatre by a side entrance (how like slipping into dream that is!), and put on a mask, so that it seems that the audience is itself on stage.