2019 Film Reviews – 44: Bait [dir. Mark Jenkin; 2019]

It’s not often that a film genuinely manages to present a fresh and surprising visual style, but Mark Jenkin’s Bait pulls of the feat with understated self-assurance. What’s interesting is that it does so by turning to the past. Its story of a Cornish village affected by the decline of age-old industries – and the buying-up of properties by Airbnb-savvy Londoners – couldn’t be more 21st century. But its presentation feels as though it’s landed from a 1950s home movie time warp. It was shot in black and white 16 mm. Its sound is often out of sync with the action, to spookily jarring effect. The film stock was treated with a wide range of (at times unorthodox) substances, in order to create strange flares, flashes and grain effects. And its use of close-ups is so striking, I was taken straight back to Film Studies classes on Eisenstein and Battleship Potemkin. The handling of its themes may, at times, come across as simplistic: the Radio 4-consuming, Waitrose-shopping, middle class characters slip into caricatures on more than one occasion. But on balance, this is a compelling piece of work that holds the viewer in its grip and lingers in the mind long after the sound of a lonely fishing boat engine fades away.

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