30th Mar2020

‘The Whalebone Box’ VOD Review (MUBI Exclusive)

by Chris Cummings

Stars: Andrew Kotting, Eden Kotting, MacGillivray, Iain Sinclair | Directed by Andrew Kotting


Andrew Kotting (By Our Selves, Lek And The Dogs) directs this curious experimental film with Anonymous Bosch (Edith Walks) working the cinematography. A reunion, too, between Iain Sinclair and Kotting, who have previously collaborated on the acclaimed Swandown, By Our Selves and Edith Walks. A work of artist, poet, dreamer, photographer, writer, filmmaker and, obviously, curator, The Whalebone Box isn’t something you’ve seen before, it’s… well… elsewhere.

The Whalebone Box introduces us to a box, made from whalebone and washed up on a beach, entangled in the nets of a fisherman. It’s said that the box has the ability to heal or change those who touch it. This curiosity begins a journey, with the box, which was given, over thirty years ago, to Iain Sinclair, a writer and filmmaker, is taken 800 miles from London to the Outer Hebrides, to be returned to sculptor Steve Dilworth, who lives on the Isle of Harris. Is this box of bone a piece of tribal art, an ancient relic, a magical object or something from a shipwreck washed up to shore? These aren’t the only questions being asked here, in this artistic and astonishingly creative endeavour.

As the journey from London to the Isle is happening, there is a parallel going on, with Andrew Kotting’s daughter, Eden, who suffers from Joubert Syndrome, the narrator of the tale who, as both a mystical being and muse to what is going on, attempts, like us perhaps, to make some sense of the journey that the mysterious box is on. This, it must be said, it not one of those films you “review” nor one that you “recommend”. It is an artistic ode, a deep, complex, thoughtful and peculiar experience that is both experiment and poem, both emotional journey and historical mythology brought to life. Using Super 8 film and pinhole photography, the film is visually punchy, unlike any art-film I’ve seen (although I admit to not being the most scholarly when it comes to that side of the coin. It feels home-made, it feels like a camera has been found and on it… is this.

I can’t rate this film out of 5. I can’t give you a solid tag-line reason to find a way to see it. I can’t put my thoughts about it, about it’s visual style, or it’s sound, or it’s prose, into the right amount of words and really outline what you’ll experience here. It’s odd ball, unusual and about as experimental as you can get with a haunted heart at its centre. It’s a trip, for sure, as this journey takes us… elsewhere.

The Whalebone Box will be available to stream exclusively on MUBI from April 3rd 2020.


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