May 22, 2015


Long, lingering takes? Solitary weeping? And how!

The Manitoba Film Classification Board gave a PG rating to Gravity and Grace, a capital-A Art Film from former University of Winnipeg film instructor Solomon Nagler, along with the following two helpful content warnings:

  • Full frontal nudity.
  • Scenes may cause children brief anxiety/fear.

But an Art Film, I would suggest, requires different kinds of content warnings to really let the viewer know what they're about to experience.

Better move along if you're looking for poop jokes or car chases.


Better move along if you're looking for poop jokes or car chases.

Here goes:


  • Very long, lingering takes.
  • Solitary weeping.
  • Wilful disregard for conventional narrative.
  • Embarrassing male nudity... like, whoa, dude.
  • Next to no dialogue.
  • Ephemeral references to the works of a long-dead French philosopher.

Nagler, who now lives in Halifax, has made many a short film, but this is his first feature. Such is Nagler's contrarian attitude to conventional Hollywood narrative, the film's official synopsis provides a lot more information than the movie itself.

The first half of the film centres on Hanna (Becca Babcock), a woman who works at the Mission to Seamen. She takes receipt of a gobsmacked-looking ship stowaway (Timothy Dunn) and takes him to her lover Antonia (Agnes Laan) to house in a decommissioned, Cold War-era nuclear fallout bunker. (The so-called Debert bunker is an authentic bomb shelter built in 1962.)

Antonia -- and again, this is from the synopsis, not the film -- is using the facility as an archive dedicated to hagiographic graphology -- the study of the saints through their handwriting.

Hannah, meanwhile, in a gesture of primal sorrow, retires to a cabin in the woods where she is resigned to the latest in a series of miscarriages.

Back at the bunker, the stowaway drifts around the facility with Antonia and Farzaid (Aaron Andreino), a mysterious older gent who walks around in white underwear, sings spirituals in the nude and eats apples, suggesting a lonesome Adam in exile from paradise.

The title and a couple of inter-titles refer obliquely to the work of French philosopher Simone Weil, which makes one consider if the film might be well served by a reading list.

That is not to say there are not pleasures in Gravity and Grace. One may luxuriate in the film's beautiful, wistful compositions by cinematographer Jeff Wheaton, its Antonioni-like depiction of isolation, and its melancholy beauty (augmented by a string score and sound design by Lukas Pearse).

Indeed, Gravity and Grace may ultimately be more appropriate as an art gallery installation than art-house attraction.

Solomon Nagler will introduce all three screenings of Gravity and Grace at Cinematheque.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 7, 2013 D5

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