Grace Dent on TV: After the X Factor, I found a strange, beautiful film that made all those pop crises just fade away

From the Sea to the Land Beyond: Britain's Coast on Film, BBC4

I chanced upon the very beautiful, mesmerising From the Sea to the Land Beyond: Britain's Coast on Film, last Sunday evening during the regular five-minute channel flicking free-for-all post-ITV1's The X Factor; a show I'm resolutely not watching this year, while still watching, ironically.

Last Sunday, the nation, playing out on Twitter, was in a state of boggle-eyed plutonium grade umbrage over the voting off of Ella Henderson who has been cited many times as a global superstar-in-waiting. In fact, Ella is a moderately talented, highly affable 16-year-old who can clank her way through "Believe" by Cher with most of the notes in the right ballpark. If I'd been on a 10-night P&O cruise around northern Europe and Ella had appeared on a slightly raised area in the cabaret theatre, just after I'd had my photo taken being starstruck with the ship's captain, and she had belted out "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion, I'd probably agree Ellie had "a pleasant voice".

Yet due to the non-unique way we enjoy light entertainment in Britain, Ella's dismissal from The X Factor had whipped the nation up into a frenzy about injustice. At that moment, over on Sky News, running concurrently, Israel and Gaza were in the throes of horror, but us human beings don't really liked to be reminded of the complexity of dozens of dead children when we can be furious on behalf of one very loved, healthy child getting the chance to go home.

Tradition says that the X Factor saga will proceed in this manner becoming ever more heart-tampering, tear-purging, painful and joyous until the moment the titles roll on the 9 December climax when suddenly, it's done. Over. The scales fall from the nation's eyes, we humans realise we don't care about these contestants at all. If anything, we feel grubby, manipulated and used, In fact, we would step over Christopher Maloney or Union J in our front drives without checking for vital signs. I pondered all of this as I watched From the Sea to the Land Beyond, an hour-long narration of archive clips of us everyday British islanders and our relationship with the coastline. A world pre-X Factor, pre-text votes, pre-rolling news, pre-the quest for fame, pre-judging panels and an exciting chance to win a VIP pool cabana with Olly Murs.

Not strictly a documentary, in fact, From the Sea to the Land Beyond was billed as "a meditation", which might sound pretentious, but after 10 minutes of staring at the camera lavishing on fishwives outside cottages sewing nets or boho fillies dancing on the beach or surreal May Day parades in foliage-covered carriages, gentlemen swimming in top hats, a multitude of happy and weary faces from yesteryear, it was impossible not be pondersome. This put me in mind of Godfrey Reggio's 1982 head-bending classic Koyaanisqatsi but focusing on British coastal splendour, how we were, how we still are all gloriously cosseted with a British Sea Power score. Without a jot of narration or captioning, it's left for the viewer to simply watch the footage and root around in the dark, often neglected, corners of one's brain to make sense of what's going on. Why is that little girl dancing on cast-iron girders 100 feet up? This must be the Thirties, surely? Why is no one stopping her? Who is that girl in the cart being whisked through the streets? A carnival queen? And why all this public dancing? When did we stop dancing in the streets on holidays? Is this May Day, Easter or a happy time we once celebrated then forgot about or cancelled. At times, feelings of loss washed over me like waves on Silloth beach, where I spent many long Sundays in the Seventies on "nice runs-out in the car" with my gran and granddad. A glass bottle of Barr's Cream Soda and a reclaimed ice-cream box full of egg and salad cream on Sunblest bread in the back of a Maxi car listening to tales of stuff that went on in Silloth in bygone times. Blimey, I was bored. I was missing the start of the charts on Radio 1.

Now it's 2012, it's Sunday night and I'm delivered archive footage of my gran's peer group, out on the razz, best hats and frocks on to entrance the boys, promenading in pairs linking arms, crowds gathering to watch pier-side entertainers or local show-offs, pretty girls kissing handsome lads who will later be taken by war. The footage is continuously confusing and for me the only person who can offer a full and frank is my grandparents, yet they have long since gone. The cream soda supply has dried up, the car has been scrapped, their house was sold and modernised, my sandwiches now come from Pret. I sit with my soda watching seagulls and ship builders and lifeboat displays as British Sea Power soothe and sadden me in turn. This documentary offered only questions and no answers, a chance to think, and perhaps only one clear message. Our time here is limited. Get out more and enjoy the sea breeze. The past is a different country. We ate ice-creams differently there.

This week Grace watched...

 

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review