#05 Filmmakers in their garden

Margaret Tait

1981United Kingdom32 mn

A Portrait of Ga (1952, United Kingdom, 4 mn)

The ‘Ga’ of the title refers to the film maker’s mother. The film gathers together this elderly lady’s everyday actions to offer an abstract insight into her life.

‘My mother seemed a good subject for a portrait, (she was there), and I thought it offered a chance to do a sort of ‘abstract film’, in the sense that it didn’t have what you might call ‘the grammar of film’. It’s mostly discontinuous shots linked just by subject, in one case by colour, only rarely by movement’. (Margaret Tait)

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Aerial (1974, United Kingdom, 4 mn)

‘Touches on elemental images ; air, water, (and snow), earth and fire (and smoke) all come in to it. The track consists of a drawn-out musical sound, single piano notes and some natural sounds’.

‘Yes, really a very simple film, if you allow yourself to respond to it instead of trying to follow it intellectually. There is no narrative and no argument, it seems more like a musical theme conjured out of the whole rather than presented as point to be taken. There’s a general theme of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water – in a different order – air, water, earth, fire and then air again, with all the elements intermingled. But just as a sort of song or even a kind of nursery rhyme. Although I don’t understand musical structure – I can’t really follow the structure of piece of music when I’m listening to it – but I think that film- structure is more like musical structure than anything else.’ (Margaret Tait)

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Tailpiece (1976, United Kingdom, 9 mn)

Lingering shots of house and garden accompanied by music, song and poetry provide an appropriate goodbye to Margaret Tait’s empty house and studio in Buttquoy, Orkney.

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Garden Pieces (1998, United Kingdom, 11 mn)

A set of three ‘film poems’ composed around the theme of the garden – the central one featuring hand scratched animated drawings. 

‘Round the Garden’ – right round and round again, ‘Garden Fliers’ – flighty cartoon and a stunner of a piano piece and ‘Grove’ – grave and sonorous. (Margaret Tait)

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Land Makar (1981, Royaume-Uni, 31 mn)

‘A landscape study of an Orkney croft, with the figure of the crofter, Mary Graham Sinclair, very much in the picture, and enriched throughout by her vivid comments. Filmed over several seasons between 1977 and 1980, it takes in many of the human activities which alter the look of the land. The croft is on the edge of a small loch where swans and other birds nest in the grass. It is worked in the old style and, although a mechanised aids are brought into use when appropriate, much is done by one woman’s labour. The crops are hay, turnips, potatoes, kale and oats; the croft also fattens a few cattle and feeds a little flock of hens and a few ducks …. ‘Makar’ is a Scots word, meaning ‘poet’. The film is worked out so that the sequences are like a number of canvases.’ (Margaret Tait)

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  • In intimate films attuned to the secret life of things, people, and landscapes, Margaret Tait sought to reveal the other side of existence – the side we only notice when our own presence in the world comes to the foreground. An independent mind and eye, she focused on what she saw before her, be it the streets of Edinburgh, the crashing sea on Orkney or a pair of old boots in a barn, shedding an singular light on the manifold dimensions of things.
    (Wien FilmMuseum)

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