Close Up

22 December 2009: Margaret Tait: Where I Am Is Here

Margaret Tait was one of Britain's most unique filmmakers. She studied at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome during the height of the neorealist movement, before returning to Scotland in the early 1950s and founding her own film company, Ancona Films. Over the course of 46 years she produced over 30 films including one feature, and published three books of poetry and two volumes of short stories, while living between Orkney and Edinburgh.

Tait described her life's work as consisting of making film poems, and denied suggestions that they were documentaries or diary films. She often quoted Lorca's phrase of "stalking the image" to define her philosophy and method, believing that if you look at an object closely enough it will speak its nature. This clarity of vision and purpose, with an attention to simple commonplace subjects, combined with a rare sense of inner rhythm and pattern, give her films a transcendental quality, while still remaining firmly rooted within the everyday. With characteristic modesty, Tait once said of her films, that they are born "of sheer wonder and astonishment at how much can be seen in any place that you choose… if you really look."  

Portrait of Ga

Margaret Tait
1952 | 4 min | Colour | 16mm

Portrait of the filmmaker's mother.


Margaret Tait
1974 | 4 min | Colour | 16mm

"Touches on elemental images; air, water, (and snow), earth and fire (and smoke) all come into it." – M.T.

Hugh MacDiarmid, a Portrait

Margaret Tait
1964 | 9 min | B/W | 16mm

A study of the poet who was 71 at the time, seen at home and in Edinburgh.

Where I Am Is Here

Margaret Tait
1964 | 33 min | B/W | 16mm

"Starting with a six-line script which just noted down a kind of event to occur, and recur, my aim was to construct a film with its own logic, its own correspondences within itself, and its own echoes and rhymes and comparisons, all through close exploration of the everyday, the commonplace, in the city of Edinburgh." – M.T.


Margaret Tait
1976 | 9 min | B/W | 16mm

"A coda to Place of Work, is more personalised, more allusive and less naturalistic. The house is being vacated, it is now clear. Children's voices repeating banded-down rhymes and rigmarole's suggest past time as well as now, and there are other reverberations into past and future coming from the handling of objects, revealing of marks of walls, mirroring of myself in a room and shadows in rooms." – M.T.