2001-2010Christopher PetitDocumentaryExperimentalIain SinclairUnited Kingdom

Christopher Petit – London Orbital (2002)

Film Description
Visionary film about the M25. A road movie (literally) and a cinematic excursion into the difference between driving and walking, film and tape, time and memory, sound and image. Also a look at covert arms deals, Essex gangsters, drug dealing and Thatcher and Pinochet as vampire-lovers.

Iain Sinclair’s territory has long been the hidden geography and psycho-geography of Britain. He is adept at drawing out the character of place, and in 2001 he walked the perimeter of the M25 in an attempt to understand its true nature and influence. This resulted in his recently published book, London Orbital.

Here, he has assisted Chris Petit in producing a richly allusive film that stands as a parallel to his book. It is an anti-road movie, condemned to circling without destination, but above all it is a meditation. A meditation on the difference between walked and driven experience and on the nature of the recorded image in our surveillance obsessed society. It is also an extraordinary collection of digitised, manipulated images, some of rare beauty, and with a narrative and sound effects that complement these well.

Instead of the promise embodied in the American highway, the M25 is instead a ‘bureaucratic dream’. Petit drives endlessly round the motorway, sometimes accompanied, often with just the banalities and moaning of talk radio as his company, and driving becomes an experience that is without a past or future, locked into a purgatory of the eternal present. One of Petit’s concerns is how a film can be made about an experience that essentially defies editing. The repetition of the road allows no anecdote. Neither is there a psychological entrance to the M25 – even the spot of opening where Thatcher cut the ribbon remains unmarked. The road is ‘negative space’ and to enter it ‘is to enter dead time’.

Sinclair uses the writers associated with the area near the M25 – H.G. Wells, J.G. Ballard and Bram Stoker, to make sense of the road and its experience. With the site of Stoker’s Carfax Abbey nearby with its Dracula associations, he suggests that a blood metaphor is appropriate for an understanding of the road. It is clogged, ‘a failed bypass in any surgical sense’.

The film also points out all the forms of interference that exist around the road – electromagnetic interference from the countless pylons, visual interference from the vehicles, barriers and roadside banks and also the constant noise from traffic below and planes above. Attempts at narrative are constantly thwarted. This is not a world where productive thought is encouraged and where such a thing might be positively threatening. Thoughts instead are alternately scrambled or lulled to leave us malleable for the grasp of the leisure malls that grow near the road.

Hypnotic and stimulating, London Orbital deserves repeated viewings.

Graeme on 12th February 2002

London Orbital (Chris Petit 2002).mkv

Container:	Matroska
Runtime:	1h 17mn
Size:	1.16 GiB
DXVA:	Compatible
Minimum settings:	Met
Codec:	x264
Resolution:	706x428 ~> 760x428
Aspect ratio:	16:9
Frame rate:	25.000 fps
Bit rate:	1 999 kb/s
2.0ch AC-3 @ 160 kb/s




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