Bait is an ambitious film by writer and director Mark Jenkin which aims to tell a simple story of a fisherman and those around him, with just a single 1970’s Bolex camera to achieve this. Using only this primitive bit of technology, the filmmaker manages to capture a small Cornish community that time appears to have forgotten, the setting beautifully complemented by the grainy black and white picture quality. The raw, jerky footage also does a good job of emphasising the grim physical labour of the many fishermen we witness who catch, gut and sell the fish, all of which is captured in excessive detail over many gruelling long takes.
The plot itself, however, is a bit of a convoluted mess. It appears to be trying to juggle many things: the journey of Martin Ward (our fisherman protagonist), the resistance towards some outsiders who have moved into town and a love triangle between three teenagers. There is a mass of potential for all of the stories, with themes of class and xenophobia explored, but there is little pay-off as the narrative becomes confused about who is related to who and how they know each other in this small town. Focusing on just one of these threads would have made for a more concise and nuanced film, rather than bombarding us with too many characters and ideas in too little time.
The most interesting decisions were made in the editing suite by the looks of the final product, as we are treated to long lingering shots of the landscape cut with close-ups of something as mundane as a pint being poured, which is treated with such care. In one particular scene, where two conflicting arguments in the bar escalate, the rapidly rising voices are all spliced over each other with quick cuts between both in a delightfully tense build-up.
It’s moments like this where it becomes clear that the focus of Bait was style over substance, but some questionable performances and a laboured plot hold back what the feature could have been.
Bait does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2019 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Berlin Film Festival website here.
Watch three clips from Bait here: