As suggested by a scholar in the numinous essay-doc Patience (After Sebald), if the current craze for walking a pilgrim’s path can’t be tied directly to the German writer W.G. Sebald, it certainly feels Sebaldian. That he secured adjectival status in the decade following his premature 2001 death suggests the extent to which the author’s discursive, form-bending novels speak to the conditions of modern life. Having already inspired its own pilgrims, The Rings of Saturn—which details Sebald-as-narrator’s walking tour of the English town of Suffolk—forms the basis of this companion documentary. Director Grant Gee (Meeting People Is Easy, Joy Division) retraces Sebald’s steps, reuniting the novel’s descriptions of actual places and spaces with their images and weaving in illuminating commentary from admirers (Rick Moody, Robert McFarlane). Much is made of Sebald’s ability to capture fleeting perceptions and articulate the universe’s uncanny connections; at times, Gee risks stepping on that ability with his array of literal and semi-literal evocations. More successful as a primer on the Sebaldian worldview than a visual representation of Saturn‘s specifics, Patience (a reference to the game otherwise known as solitaire, which features in Sebald’s final novel, Austerlitz) serves its subject best when it echoes his rapt and penetrative attention through a perspective of its own.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 9, 2012