Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness


Fitzcarraldo hoisted a steamboat over a Peruvian mountain so that a tiny village could experience opera. Not literally as high-reaching, but no less passionate, is the quest of Vincent (Magnus Aronson), a moped-driving, sweetly misguided visionary who yearns to bring a mobile disco to the sparsely populated hills of southern Scotland in Laurin Federlein’s Build a Ship, Sail to Sadness. Shot on Hi8 and transferred to Super 16mm with its contrast boosted so extremely that the colors don’t just pop, they sparkle, this beautifully daffy road-movie musical is as inspired, whimsical, and commercially unconcerned as its protagonist. Perhaps most peculiar is the shared writing credit (between Aronson, who also conceived the delicate electro-pop and acoustic confessionals heard throughout, and British-
based German director Federlein), since the film is more improvised than Borat. When Vincent isn’t tooling around the mountainous roads, huffing his fuel tank, or musing on the inanity of sheep, he shares his dreams with actual confounded locals, none of whom seem aware that they’re being filmed while professing a contentment in undeniably monotonous living. But unlike that wily Kazakhstani’s own travelogue, there isn’t a fleck of condescension here—not toward the townspeople, nor toward Vincent—and in a mere 69 minutes, the joy of solitude and the loneliness of recruitment become as contagious as a night on the dance floor but, well, more pensive.

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