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LEANING INTO THE WIND: ANDY GOLDSWORTHY (2017) review

March 22, 2018

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produced by: Leslie Hills and Stefan Told
directed by: Thomas Reidelsheimer
rating: PG (for brief language)
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: March 9, 2018 (limited), March 23, 2018 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)

 

The full title of the latest documentary from German editor/cinematographer/director Thomas Riedelsheimer is called “Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy” and it serves as a satisfying introduction to that unique artist. That is especially true if you’re like me and had no clue who this Goldsworthy is going in or what he does. Maybe you’re aware of the other documentary on the artist that Riedelsheimer shot, “Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy” from back in 2001, if not and you’re like me, this is a fine place to get to know him and his work and I can attest you’ll come away from the viewing experience just as if you had opened your eyes from a refreshing meditation. 

After viewing “Leaning into the Wind”, I kind of wish I had seen “Rivers and Tides” first, just to be able to reunite with Goldsworthy and catch up with where he’s at in life now, in his 60s, knowing about who he is and what he does. Regardless, this film definitely caught my interest and found me enraptured by its subject.

 

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The British sculptor and photographer from Dumbfrieshire can definitely be considered a naturalist and maybe even an installation artist, although Goldsworthy only uses what he can transform or manipulate from the earth for his art projects. When it comes to the natural wonders that the world around Goldsworthy has to offer, the man is like a kid in a candy shop. He adores and is in awe of and what he observes and essentially praises what is often taken for granted. This isn’t documenting who Goldsworthy is, nor does it delve into his past, it rather takes the artist’s own approach and simply observes and creates. His is a specialized vision and Riedelsheimer follows him every step of the way, capturing the curious artist as he encounters outdoor objects across like giant rocks in grassy meadows, toppled trees laying across gentle streams, and the cracks that can be traced in the cement that lines an urban layout. All of this is found across UK and France, around different types of snowy or windy weather conditions.

Whatever strikes Goldsworthy’s curiosity, be it a dense tree or concrete ground, he is intent on experiencing it in a full tactile manner. If it’s a tree, he’ll climb its mossy branches. Another thick row of barren trees will be something for him to crawl across, struggling with each move. If he senses it’s about to rain, Goldsworthy will lay down on the ground and after it’s rained a bit, he’ll get up and watch as his dry profile is washed away. He is honored to be engaged with his environment and is humbled as his artwork is washed away by the natural elements. All of this is captured by Riedelsheimer’s still camera, observing how this white-haired man embarks on each personal artistic journey.

Indeed, “Leaning into the Wind” is a journey. It opens in the jungles of Brazil, as Goldsworthy finds himself in awe at how the villagers have created such smooth flooring for their shacks (secret ingredient: cow dung) and eventually winds up marveling at the rolling countryside of his homeland. He can be standing literally anywhere and be enraptured by how nature finds its way. Traveling with both Riedelsheimer and Goldsworthy becomes an enriching experience and the experimental jazz score composed and performed by Fred Firth is a perfect companion to this unpredictable tour.

 

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Throughout the movie, Goldsworthy can’t help but to think of the passage of time and what it does to both the living and the dead. There is a quest to live and fight in both humans and natural living things, finding a struggle under insurmountable odds and fading away into nothingness like when a tree trunk breaks apart and winds up being useful for other living things. Goldsworthy, who at times is accompanied by his dutiful daughter, Holly, as well as his son, Felix, will turn all of that into art somehow. He’ll shave it down, saw intricate designs onto it or paint it into something that is recognizable yet different, it becomes his own while paying tribute to its original form.

“Leaning into the Wind” details several installations and private tours that contribute to the Goldsworthy’s personal view. It’s as if each venture is a renewal of vows for the artist, looking at the world with a new pair of eyes, as if noticing patterns and possibilities for the very first time. It’s a reminder that we can do that. We can adopt that approach wherever we are. Search for the natural elements around us, touch and see them and place value and worthiness in them. “Leaning into the Wind” reminds me just how special it is to simply close my eyes and listen to raindrops, the wind blow through the leaves and find peace in the running water of a winding stream. Goldsworthy adores each of these environments and incorporates his own installations to accent or enhance the locations for others to see.

I don’t know if I’d stuff my mouth full of yellow leaves and blow them into the air, like Goldsworthy, but this film definitely found me noticing and valuing nature in a greater way than I already acknowledge have been. “Leaning into the Wind” will have you seeking stillness and tranquility in your world and Goldsworthy is proof that that can occur wherever you are and it should. Maybe Reidelsheimer’s film is solely for the art-minded, but I hope not. I’d like to think that anyone can walk away a little richer after going on this moving and transfixing ride.

 

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RATING: ***1/2

 

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