Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Most Scottish Film Ever Made

Living in England, the last few weeks have been interesting; with the news plastered with coverage of Scotland and the Referendum and people talking about little else, I realised two things: 1, I miss Glasgow more than I would my right lung right now and 2, no one in England knows anything about Scottish cinema.

So in honour of Scotland choosing to stay in the Union for another ten years at least, I think it’s high time to talk about the most Scottish film ever made. 

And no, it’s not bloody Braveheart. The Battle of Stirling Bridge could have been good, except it wasn’t on a Bridge, and so was the Battle in a Field Somewhere Less Significant, which doesn’t really carry the same weight. I must have been the only person to watch Braveheart wondering when the English would just get on with it and kill Wallace, if only it meant the film would end at some point soon.

On top of this, it’s an American film directed by an Australian shot in Ireland. How Scottish.

That and Scots stopped wearing wode when the Romans left, which I'm sure they just put in to irritate history nerds at this point

No, not Braveheart. Or Brave, Trainspotting, Local Hero or Whisky Galore (although that film is glorious). Nah, it’s a Gaelic language film with minimal English dialogue, partly funded by Skye College and it’s utterly wonderful.

Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle tells the story of young Angus, orphaned when his parents fall from the Skye mountains, and his relationship with his Grandfather, a man who mourns both his son and his dying culture. Angus’s life is filled with stories and Gaelic culture, but it seems bleak and isolated – it’s telling how exotic and distant places like Glasgow seem in Seachd, as if the idea of speaking anything other than Gaelic ill suits such a wild and ancient land.

Skye looks gorgeous throughout, Ian Dodd’s cinematography perfectly capturing the vastness of landscape whilst picking up on the small human imprints on this natural world. A car here, a cottage there and Agnus’s problems seem simultaneously enormous and insignificant.  It’s as much a film about Gaelic as it is Agnus, his Granddad using old Gaelic stories as metaphors, instructions and sometimes just to cheer up his sullen and lonely grandson.

And what stories they are. With this kind of film, it can be difficult to get across the importance of the message without it consuming the entire narrative, casting the entire thing into the dark world of important, but not very entertaining. Seachd balances the more serious tales of oppression, death and murder with a gentle sense of humour, particularly with the tale of the Spaniard and the McDonald, which is fun, funny and ends with an amazing pun which still makes me smile.

Where Braveheart is cynical and manipulative, Seachd is sincere and hopeful. It’s a film about local history and legend interwoven with a heartbreakingly real family drama and I honestly can’t recommend it enough. It’s lovingly crafted, warm hearted and small enough to feel personal to everyone who watches it whilst being undoubtedly and truly Scottish.