08. December 2017

The feature film “Leaning Into The Wind” about British land artist Andy Goldsworthy is a successful meditation on transience.

By Jens Balkenborg

Sometimes there are those moments when you leave the cinema, and reality and film briefly coincide. When the darkness of the movie theater seeps through, only to quickly disappear again behind the closing door. After the full 90 minutes of “Leaning Into The Wind - Andy Goldsworthy” there is precisely such a moment, when the extremely leisurely paced portrait of the artist Andy Goldsworthy, who is filmed primarily in nature, is suddenly followed by the traffic noise of bustling reality. It’s in moments like this that one is briefly inclined to agree with the statements like “I like grey, calm days”, that Goldsworthy comes out with.

Following on from “Rivers and Tides – Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time”, “Leaning Into The Wind” is the second film that cameraman and director Thomas Riedelsheimer has dedicated to the artist, who is among the best known champions of Land Art. More than ten years passed after “Rivers and Tides” before the two men met once again in Scotland in 2011 and decided they wanted to make another film together. As a result, here a proven formula is reestablished, as Goldsworthy remains the likable eccentric and Riedelsheimer knows how to capture the aura of extraordinary artistic figures and their works with a calm gaze, as he also demonstrates in “Breathing Earth” and “Touch the Sound”. 

Dropping out of the world

“Leaning Into The Wind” is thus something of a documentary sequel, which shows the hyper-sensitive nature-lover and romanticizer Goldsworthy and his work in a later phase of life. Riedelsheimer and the artist meditate on transience to the sounds of a similarly sedate soundtrack by Fred Frith. In visual terms the theme is manifested right at the beginning, when in time-lapse we see ruptures – one might almost say wrinkles – form in a tree Goldsworthy has encased in clay. This theme continues throughout the film when, on multiple occasions, Goldsworthy lies on the ground in the rain, leaving behind a quickly disappearing rain shadow, or retreats to his favorite place in the forest, where he decorates a dead tree stump he has been working on for some time with leaves and branches.

Leaning into the wind, © Arne Höhne Presse

At no point is any secret made of the fact that Goldsworthy is someone who has dropped out of the world, who lives the slow movement with every fiber of his being. Occasionally his anecdotes and reminiscences seem like the stuff of sentimental calendar maxims, setting an awkwardly romanticizing tone for the film overall. This is forgotten, however, as soon as Goldsworthy – be it in the city or in his rural Scottish homeland – again climbs like Spiderman through a long hedge or tackles his next work with childish curiosity and manual dexterity. His existing works made of stones, branches or leaves never fail to be visually impressive and moving. 

Clarity in chaos

It is a downright one-sided utopia that Riedelsheimer and Goldsworthy formulate here, since the actual art world plays no role whatsoever in their film. Yet it’s precisely this detachedness that gives “Leaning Into The Wind” a fable-like quality: Namely, the film gets its title from a work that involves Goldsworthy leaning into the wind on a Scottish hillside and trying to maintain his balance. He tries to find the precise point at which the wind carries him and for a second everything is held in balance. For Goldsworthy it’s a brief moment of clarity amid the chaos. Just like in real life.

Leaning into the wind, © Arne Höhne Presse