Close Up

18 May 2017: William Raban: Thames Film


Close-Up and Carroll/Fletcher gallery present a follow up to William Raban’s Making Films Politically? programme, with two films exploring transient aspects of our natural and built environments to expose layers of historical, political and mythological meaning. William Raban will be present for a Q&A following the screening.

Civil Disobedience
William Raban
2004 | 3’25 min | Colour | 35mm

A rapid time-lapse journey from the Houses of Parliament to the open sea, offset by David Cunningham's musical score composed from fragments of Margaret Thatcher's Belgrano speech.

Thames Film
William Raban
1986 | 68’38 min | Colour | DCP

Filming from the low freeboard of a small boat, Raban attempts to capture the point of view of the river itself, tracing the 50 mile journey from the heart of London to the open sea. Interspersed with images from Breugel The Elder’s painting the Triumph of Death, this contemporary view is set in an historical context through use of archive film and the words of the travel writer Thomas Pennant, who followed exactly the same route in 1787.

“This is a vision of the dark Thames, of 'Old Father Thames' as an awful god of power akin to William Blake's Nobodaddy; and, in Blake's poem, Jerusalem, ‘Thames is drunk with blood’. In this film there is something fearful about the river, something monstrous, recalling Conrad's line in Heart of Darkness that ‘...this also has been one of the dark places of the earth.’ Walking along the banks of the Thames, downriver, approaching the estuary, it is possible to feel great fear. One of the possible derivations of the word Thames itself is tamasa meaning ‘dark river’; the word is pre-Celtic in origin, so we have the vision of an ancient, almost primeval, time. And yet there is beauty and sublimity in terror. Raban has learned something from the great artists of the river, such as Turner and Whistler, and portrayed the Thames as clothed in wonder.” – Peter Ackroyd

“[In Thames Film] Modernity is put on trial: Pennant's links between British imperialism, technological advances and the Thames are juxtaposed with derelict British imperialism, technological advances and pompous voiceovers from post-war newsreels anticipating the collapse not just of the Empire but also the ideals which supported it.” – Gareth Buckell

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