Parallel (2017) is a 14-minute long experimental film that examines the enduring resonance of landscape and location in television and cinema. Using strategies of re-enactment, it transposes scenes of narrative fiction and substitutes settings to produce a series of uncanny vignettes.
The project began with a call-out for suggestions of film scenes that had been filmed or set near the North Sea and that could then be considered for re-enactment. The call was targeted to community groups based in Northumberland, UK and the greater Gothenburg area in Sweden. Responses brought an eclectic mix of material ranging from crime television drama and science fiction to art-house cinema.
8 scenes were selected out of 72 suggestions. The UK selection came from films sci-fi films (Alien 3), gangster drama (Get Carter) and comedy (Billy Elliot) as well as police TV-drama (Vera) – all filmed in the North East of England. From Sweden the costume drama How Soon is Now, feature-length action thriller Kodnamn Lisa, screwball comedy Göta Kanal and an early Ingmar Bergman film Port of Call were selected to reflect a breadth of genre.
The scenes were then stripped of dialogue and action and deconstructed into a shot list that became the shooting script for the film. Each scene was then reimagined in the opposite location; scenes from Gothenburg were filmed in Blyth and vice versa. Stripped of context, dialogue and story the individual shots could then be assembled and re-written as a non-narrative short film.
Commissioned for the Tall Ships Cultural Festival (2016) with support from Arts Council England and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. The film was selected by Film & Video Umbrella for Somewhere Becoming Sea, Humberside Gallery for Hull City of Culture (2017).
Somewhere Becoming Sea:
Alien3 (1992), part of the of the science fiction horror film franchise, was mostly filmed at Pinewood studios but some scenes where shot on locations in the North East including Blyth Power Station and Blast Beach in Seaham, utilising the wild open landscape and industrial structures to create an alien world. The landscape scenes where shot ‘day for night’; a set of cinematic techniques used to simulate a night scene while filming in daylight. The opening scene of the 2003 re-release of Alien3 was re-imagined and filmed at Kvillepiren, a former railway pier part of Frihamnen next to where the Tall Ships will dock in Gothenburg.
The end of the iconic gangster thriller ‘Get Carter’ (1971) features a chase scene filmed at the former coal staithes in Blyth. Originally the plan was to film this scene at Kvillepiren as the railway pier had a similar function to the Blyth Staithes but in the end I decided to film it underneath the bridge ‘Göta Älvbron’ as it’s architecture and staircase fitted the original drama better.
The popular Swedish action film series about the fictional police officer Johan Falk is set in Gothenburg and the scene recreated is from ‘Kodnamn Lisa’ (2012). The scene, originally filmed by the lake Rådasjön near Gothenburg, features Johan Falk, infiltrator Frank and another officer Ove, Frank’s uncle. Taken out of context and stripped of its dialogue the scene appears to depict three men leisurely hanging out by the water. This scene was recreated at Seaton Sluice, the rocks revealed at low tide reminded me of the Scandinavian seaside landscapes.
‘Göta Kanal’ (1981) is a popular comedy about a boat race from Stockholm to Gothenburg through the canals of Sweden. The scene is from the end of the film where the three main protagonists, having lost the race, sits down at a pile of straw bales contemplating their loss. It is never clear in the film why these straw bales where there.
The ITV police drama ‘Vera’ (2011-present) set in Northumberland is an important employer of the film and television industry in the North East of England. A number of episodes have featured seaside locations including ‘Changing Tides, (Episode1 season 5) filmed on a variety of beaches in Northumberland. For the location in Sweden I decided to go to Falkenberg, an hour south east of Gothenburg to film at Skreastrand; a beach destination for many Gothenburg residents. It’s 250-metre long, recently renovated wooden pier echoes British seaside architecture.
Billy Elliot (2000) about a young boy an aspiring ballet dancer set against the backdrop of the coal miners strike in North East of England earned critical acclaim, earned 72 million pounds at the box office and has later been turned into a musical. The biggest challenge was to find a location in Sweden as the architecture featured in the film, mainly Victorian terraced houses are unmistakably British.
The Swedish miniseries ‘Upp till Kamp’ (How Soon is Now) from 2007 chronicles four friends road to adulthood in Gothenburg in the 1960’s and 70’ at the backdrop of the left wing political movement in Sweden. The Gothenburg region, like the North East, have seen the demise of its heavy industries, mainly the ship building industry, in the last 50 years dealing with similar social and economical readjustments. The scene recreated is from the intro to the first episode where the main character is looking out over the inlet to Gothenburg. This scene was shot at in North Shields overlooking the ferry terminal where ferries used to depart for Gothenburg.
‘Hamnstad’ (Port of Call) from 1948 is written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, his fifth feature film. Ingmar Bergman is undoubtebly the most respected and wellknown director from Sweden and even in this early film his distinct aesthetics and visual storytelling is clear. The film is set in Gothenburg and its main character is Berit, a young woman. The film begins in the harbour and it’s the opening scene I decided to recreate in port of Blyth. In the end of the sequence Berit looks over at the remains of Blyth Staithes; the original location of the chase scene out of Get Carter.