The German expatriate W G Sebald (1944-2001) is celebrated in this thoughtful film-meditation that apes the eclectic nature of his visionary writings – an unclassifiable compendium of fiction, memoir, travel, history, and warning.
Grant Gee takes Sebald's influential book The Rings of Saturn as the structural fulcrum, tracing its footsteps through the leafy byways and coastal walks of Suffolk, a landscape which refracts the author's preoccupations with exile, transience and (his great subject) the disasters of war. In between, Gee gathers monochrome tributes from admirers and friends of "Max", whose untimely death in a car accident at the age of 57 has perhaps burnished the legend to a degree that might surprise the shade of this modest, gentle man. (Is it significant that Sebald sounds so close to "Sibyl", the ancient oracle through whom the gods spoke?). Plainly it's required viewing for his readers, though the reverential lit-crit tone and non-cinematic scale might not seduce the uninitiated. BBC4 is the film's natural habitat.