Sea Swallow’d charts the choppy waters of gut feelings, capturing the flotsam and jetsam of impulse, desire and fights to the death. A film by Andrew Kötting and Curious shot as a series of lapping and flowing, irregular chapters, which borrow their titles from Moby Dick. The film is image and urge driven, giving the viewer the feeling of beach-combing for different fragments of treasure on the shoreline. A highly experiential journey mixing 16mm B&W footage shot by filmmaker Ben Rivers with video and archival footage.
The Lee Shore
A woman stands on a wooden chair at the edge of the sea. The legs of the chair are slowly sinking into the wet sand. The woman does not seem notice. She is preoccupied with trying to send the sea back. The woman’s task is completely hopeless of course. We all know that. We all know that you can’t stop the sea. Can’t stop the tides.
Footage of an 18th century model of a naked cadaver, pregnant belly exposed, cuts to a living breathing woman lying in a medical display cabinet, her stomach and breasts exposed. Beneath her, on the bottom shelf of the case, is a set of encyclopedias.
The First Lowering
Archival medical footage of x-ray machines and lungs, doctors and patients cuts to a woman lying in the bath with a set of organs resting on her stomach, the liver dark brown, the heart bright red, the stomach pale and webbed. She reflects on what it is like; the weight and smell of them.
Heads or Tails
Two people are sitting at a dinner table on a wild windy beach, cutting into a large raw dogfish, causing its stomach to balloon out from the incision. The voice over of a neurogastroenterologist explains the biology of the ‘second brain’ or ‘little brain’ that we have in the gut which rapidly processes sensory experiences on an unconscious level, communicating millisecond by millisecond with the ‘big brain’ to control our responses in any given situation.
A Bosom Friend
Two fencers chase each other across a road and onto a beach where they engage in a sword fight with no skill or etiquette, throwing beach rocks at each other and banging each others heads into the pebbles. In voice over a woman with an Eastern European accent tells the legend, as told to her by an old man on his deathbed, of two fencers who fought to theirs deaths, battling each other on the beach and into the sea:
“When they got them out you couldn’t disentangle their bodies and their swords from each other. The swords were completely locked. Love, I think and love is what they said.”
The Spirit Spout
Archival 1940s footage of a Belgian ‘apple dance’ competition in which couples dance with an apple balanced between their heads flows into a modern day scene of a couple in their 80s dancing on the esplanade at Eastbourne and then on the pebble beach with an apple balanced between their foreheads. Meanwhile an old couple talk about ‘gut feelings’ and the Nuerogastroenterologist attempts to define gut feelings.
A woman in a long sweeping black COAT collects chalk pebbles into a handkerchief on the cliff at Beachy Head in gale force wind. Her situation is precarious. A mysterious young woman tells the story of a whale in voice over.
A woman floats in the sea on a pink lilo. She’s fully dressed with a string of pearls around her neck. It is early evening and the tide is coming in. It seems she has set sail, never to return:
“This is how I dream it. This is how it feels. And I am not a sailor. I cannot steer a craft. I cannot tie a reef knot. I cannot swim. But still this is how it ends. I am out here with the lost mariners, the castaways, the ship wrecked and the sea swallowed. The lilo is full of my breath. It gives me a sense of achievement, floating out here on my own breath, on hundreds and hundreds of exhales. As long as my breath lasts I will be able to float.”
A somewhat ridiculous ‘scientist’ figure in white protective suit and hood combs the beach with a microphone and amp and a portable ultrasound machine, picking up flotsam and jetsam of stories, traces, marks on the beach, in the foam on the shore, along the groins. Finally the scientist swallows the microphone and tunes into sounds from within:
“It’s about dark green secrets from the belly of the sea. Fishermen who went out one day in the early morning and they never came back, stories of fights, of fights to the death, of setting sail, never to return. Of stories of staying fast, of holding on, of taking the last dance in the setting sun on the prom. It’s about things that were cast off and hidden and tossed into the ocean and regurgitated.
It’s about love.”