Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness
Laurin Felderin / UK / 2007
A rather strange looking man in a bright red crash helmet and a blue cagoule steers his yellow moped along the winding roads of the Scottish Highlands to some deeply quirky disco beats in Build a ship, Sail to Sadness; a rather strange but deeply lovable debut feature for Laurin Felderin, a graduate of the National Film and Television School. This graphic sense of not-belonging though doesn't hang around for the protagonist, Vincent, to take to the hills on his bike.
In the opening scene a long-ish jumble of slow jump-cuts reveal snippets of conversation outlining what the German sounding Vincent is up to. In meandering strands of stream of consciousness full of cod reasoning, it is revealed that he intends nothing less than to bring mobile disco in all its kitsch restorative glory to this patch of rural isolated Scotland to reduce loneliness. The catch playfully being that no one Vincent meets appears to be anywhere near as lonely as Vincent himself. Vincent's audience in that first scene picks up on it repeatedly. And so it goes as he rides about from meeting to meeting with various people who might be able to help him fulfil his ambitions.
This intriguing film school graduation piece carries similarities to John Shuttleworth's It's Nice Up North or even Borat, by using a fictional comedic central character in a documentary road movie setting. Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness though is much more art school and visual than either – in that it has the look of a knackered television set and that the protagonist has some emotional depth and some essentially unresolved deep melancholy.
Felderin has whacked the contrast up especially in the outdoor scenes really making Vincent stick out visually to the extent that the colours of his get-up seem to bleach into his surroundings. Keying the protagonist's dress sense to some bizarre post-70s indie interpretation of disco helps to heighten the massive disconnect between his ambitions and general sentiment of the locals (i.e. why the hell would we need a mobile disco!). In this way Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness alternates between the mockumentary styled interviews with the locals and long segments where Vincent ambles about in the Scottish outdoors. His plan irks the locals; his clothes clash with the hillsides.
Resisting the urge to ridicule the central character, Magnus Aronson (who plays Vincent) has composed a haunting low-fi selection of songs for the film that overcome their inherently naff origins and add to the sense of isolation, notably at the start and ending. Although laughable they have a fragile quality about them that totally fits with Vincent's character and almost make one believe that his outlandish scheme just might work.
All in all it seems just like some old BFI short they might have shown on Channel 4 in the 1980s before the marketeers took charge, and it marks a promising debut for Laurin Felderin.