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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
film
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'

TV

Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
News
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Comedy
Arts and Entertainment

Review

These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

art
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.

    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
    How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

    How to Get Away with Murder

    Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
    A cup of tea is every worker's right

    Hard to swallow

    Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Which animals are nearly extinct?

    Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
    12 best children's shoes

    Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

    Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why