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Docurama presents
Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides (2004)

"There's so many works of mine where the thing, the very thing that brings a work to life is the thing that will cause its death."
- Andy Goldsworthy

Review By: Jeff Ulmer  
Published: October 06, 2004

Stars: Andy Goldsworthy
Director: Thomas Riedelsheimer

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (brief mild language)
Run Time: 01h:30m:08s
Release Date: September 28, 2004
UPC: 767685964330
Genre: documentary

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B+A C+

DVD Review

"Art for me is a form of nourishment. I need the land, I need it. I want to understand that state, and that energy that I have in me that I can also feel in the plants and in the land. Energy in life that is running through, flowing through the landscape." - Andy Goldsworthy

One of the greatest rewards in working for digitallyOBSESSED is the chance to discover titles and subject matter that I would otherwise not have been exposed to. Since I am by no means an art connoisseur, picking up a DVD about an artist I had never heard of would simply not happen otherwise. In the case of Tides and Rivers, I would have missed out on something extraordinary.

Andy Goldsworthy is a world-renowned environmental artist, born in Chesire, England, in 1956, and is one of Britain's most popular artists. Now calling Penpont, Dumfriesshire in Scotland his home, Goldsworthy studied at Bradford Art College and Preston Polytechnic. He has toured the world, experimenting with natural materials found in the varied climates and seasonal changes in the landscape. Photographs of his work can be seen in galleries or his many "coffee table" books, but these are but a limited representation of what the work encompasses. Watching the works come to life is as spellbinding as it is inspirational.

"I think its chances for survival are bit slim."

Unlike most art, which has a permanence about it, much of Goldsworthy's work defies this tradition in its ephemeral quality, where the decay and transitory nature of the materials themselves play an integral part, with only photographic journalling as evidence of its existence. Working with leaves, twigs, grasses, stone, or ice, many of his creations will only ever be experienced first hand by the artist, as working against time, that which he has built is destroyed, by the tides, the sun, or the wind. Thus, the very elements supplied by nature are reclaimed, completing the cycle. By contrast, his commissions also include more permanent works on a grand scale, such as the Storm King Wall, where Goldsworthy plays more the director than participant in the actual construction process, but even these are seen through the passage of time, as the works change with their surroundings. His has a spiritual connection with nature, the essence of his art being the search for an understanding of the materials he is working with.

"It is that intangible thing that is here and then gone."

Director and cinematographer Thomas Riedelsheimer brings Goldsworthy's art to life as only film can, showing the method, the movement, and the transition that is fundamental to the artist's approach. Filmed over the course of a year and following the artist on location around the world, Goldsworthy provides the running and on-camera commentary, expressing his need to work in the landscape, and at times denied the words needed to convey his philosophies and inspirations. While few may be able to understand the motivations of such an artist, Tides and Rivers balances the art and its creator with the sources of the energies that drive him. We see him at work, painstakingly assembling forms in ice, stone, or plant material, drawing inspiration from his surroundings; they are awe-inspiring in their simple appearance, yet incredibly complex. Even his stone works, with their illusion of solidity can, and do crumble, which the artist sees as a natural part of the process. It is that fragility that gives them their beauty.

"You feel as if you've touched the heart of the place. That's the way of understanding you know. Seeing something you never saw before but was always there, just that you were blind to."

The cinematography is spectacular, giving the viewer a great appreciation for the talent and the work, while also enhancing the feel of the environment with aerial views of the surrounding landscape, which puts the piece in context. The audience is privy to the creative process, and unlike a static display, witnesses the effects of time on each project. Many sequences provide contrast or sympathetic views of the natural world, such as wandering through the complexities of a stream. We also get one-on-one dialogue with the artist, which adds to the sense of the man and his mission. The only real downside to this documentary is that, due to its scope in showing Goldsworthy's creations, many of the works are not visited in depth, which does frustrate a bit when wanting to learn more.

Even though what is defined as art these days often leaves me shaking my head, Goldsworthy proves a fascinating study, and one that should appeal even to non-artists.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Presented in a nonanamorphic 1.85 aspect ratio, the image quality is quite good, with strong color saturation and solid black levels. The film's subject matter contains lots of images of detailed forests, which can prove challenging to compress naturally, and there are occasions where artifacts are present, which can be a bit distracting.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: English audio is clean with no discernable defects. Dialogue is easily understood, and Fred Rith's score comes across naturally.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 12 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Documentaries
6 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo gallery
  2. Docurama catalogue
Extras Review: Docurama provides brief biographies for Goldsworthy and Riedelsheimer, and a 19-image photo gallery covering more of Goldsworthy's collection, with behind-the-scenes shots some of the works presented in the feature.

The main attraction here are the seven short films, also by Riedelsheimer, that expand on some of the pieces introduced in Tides and Rivers. These include Storm King Wall (19m:58s), Autumn Works (3m:36s), Garlic Leaves (3m:05s), Ice Arch (4m28s), Black Stone (5m:06s), Leaf Works (5m:40s) and The Old Studio (1m:56s). All give a greater appreciation of the process involved in their creation, but like the main feature, which shares some of the footage, these have a tendency to only whet the appetite for exploring the artist's work further. Video quality is not quite as good here, with a few dropouts in the source.

Information about Docurama and an extensive catalogue with accompanying trailers is also included.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Thomas Riedelsheimer creates a fascinating and intimate portrait of one of the world's premier environmental artists in Tides and Rivers. Whether you are familiar with the artist or not, Andy Goldsworthy's thought-provoking philosphies and artwork are showcased in this award-winning documentary, exquisitely filmed, and narrated by the artist himself. The sheer, simplistic beauty of Goldsworthy's work and its environment should captivate anyone with a connection to nature. The accompanying short films help fill in the gaps for those whose interest is piqued. Another winner from Docurama. Highly recommended.


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