Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
Robert Flaherty’s interpretation of the word “documentary” is one that would definitely not be accepted today. Showing up on the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland with the intention of filming its rough, primitive life, and disappointed by the fact that its inhabitants had more or less caught up with the modern world, Flaherty filmed real life denizens of the “three wastes of rock” in various old-world activities that they were often faking for the cameras. The most significant and visually memorable of these is a gorgeously shot sequence of a group of people hunting a basking shark for its oil (an Inuit hunter had to teach them how to do it as Aran inhabitants hadn’t hunted these creatures for many generations). That hilariously minor point of integrity aside, however, the film is a fascinating and beautiful portrait of a highly challenged rural life. The high level from the sea upon which the Aran rocks reside causes for very rough weather that makes life a constant battle, and while Flaherty, considered the grandfather of the documentary film, is fudging the details, one gets the impression that he is putting forth some manner of reality; it’s certainly charismatic enough to hold your attention, and the visuals are constantly beautiful.
Venice Film Festival Award: Best Foreign Film