Written and directed by Mark Jenkin.
Starring Edward Rowe, Giles King, Chloe Endean, Mary Woodvine, and Simon Shepherd.
A stubborn fisherman refuses to adjust to changing times, and the challenges they bring.
Within the first few frames of Bait I realized one thing- this was going to be an experience unlike any other… and boy, how I right I was. Bait is undoubtedly the most singularly unique film to debut in 2019. The bold decision to use an old-fashioned 16mm clockwork camera to achieve the distinctive aesthetic seen in the film was an absolute masterstroke by director Mark Jenkin. In the hands of a lesser director this would have been a redundant gimmick, but here its use goes beyond the superficial, in that it adds a sense of raw authenticity to the heavy themes that Jenkin is attempting to explore here with regards to classism, gentrification and alienation.
In a lot of ways, the film also functions as an ode to the director’s personal experiences, as a local hailing from the Cornwall region. Jenkin has undoubtedly experienced firsthand, the feeling of being an ‘outsider in his own home’ and the devastating toll such a circumstance would have on a person. With Bait, it seems as if the creator’s emotion-sodden soul itself has seeped into the celluloid, making the effort that more personal. The film brought to mind the works of another similarly inclined auteur – Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin. For those unfamiliar with Maddin, he is a director possessing an unusual fascination with silent-era films, because of this his productions almost always veer away from the norms of contemporary cinema.
British actor Edward Rowe delivers a powerful performance as the narratives central character; a proud fisherman caught in the vice-like grip of clashing lifestyles and changing times. Perfectly embodying the anger, frustration and confusion of his cinematic counterpart Rowe truly is something to behold, in the film. And most of all, we as an audience, understand why his character acts and behaves the way he does, and where his malcontent comes from. A fisherman without a boat is like a man without purpose. It’s hard to imagine that Rowe is a stand-up comedian in real-life, considering the hostile hard-eyed stares he gives outsiders in this film. Here’s hoping this talented actor receives more opportunities to show off his acting chops in future projects… he’s that good. The rest of the cast also shine in their respective supporting roles with Giles King and Chloe Endean being the standouts of the bunch.
Since Bait was shot using a clockwork Bolex camera incapable of capturing sound, the film at the outset was pretty much a silent-film, into which sound was rerecorded and dubbed in post-production. Because of this there is a sort of ‘disconnected-disjointed’ feel between the visual and audio, similar to the experience one gets when watching a film that has been dubbed with another language, but in this instance the ‘disconnect’ works in the film’s favor by reinforcing the themes of alienation and loneliness. And the man responsible for the stunning B & W cinematography showcased in the film-which is akin to a series of hand drawn monochromatic drawings on a zoetrope – is none other than the director himself. But he doesn’t stop there, further lending his talents in the music department as well. The score, evocative of 80’s John Carpenter and created using analog synths, is an appropriately moody one which adds to the foreboding atmosphere of the film. But it isn’t all doom and gloom here, the immersive narrative is punctuated with numerous instances of well-placed humor and wit, neither of which will get more deadpan nor dry than this.
Bait isn’t for everyone. Despite the fact that Jenkin nabbed the award for outstanding directorial debut at this year’s BAFTAs, the highly experimental nature of the film most likely won’t appeal to general audiences. But, if you allow yourself to be sucked into its visual-vortex, chances are you will fall in love with this strangely beautiful film. It is unconventional cinema bordering on the realm of art.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.