The Whalebone Box
As its title suggests, Andrew Kötting’s new avant-garde documentary is centred around a mysterious box made of whalebone and follows its journey from London to its place of origin, the Isle of Harris. The Whalebone Box presents interesting visuals and proves intriguing at its start; however, as images are repeated, its lack of consistency and coherency becomes exasperating rather than artistic or moving.
Structured in five parts, the picture follows Kötting and writer Ian Sinclair as they travel to the Scottish Hebrides in 2018 to return the box to where it was made. We are taken on detours, where Sinclair starts hypothesising what the box holds and means. References are made to Schrödinger’s cat and Pandora’s box throughout these interludes, with old footage intermingled.
However, all semblance of the filmmaker’s ideas as to what he wants his work to achieve become lost with The Whalebone Box’s poor editing. There are multiple awkward shots with different filters reminiscent of the 60s, and odd, long moments interrupted by cars and scenes between Sinclair and Kötting that make one question if this should be taken seriously.
While we follow the two men on their journey, we witness in parallel Kötting’s daughter (Eden Kötting) acting as a kind of muse to the main story. We are told that Eden is hunting a whale in her mind. She travels along the British landscape with binoculars, searching for something whilst her father and Sinclair are on their own pilgrimage. Eden’s scenes are by far the most interesting and most emotive in the film, but don’t save the piece from its monotony. The inaccessible language and recurrence of visuals, whilst initially fascinating, become mind-numbing after an hour and a half.
Kötting throws up a number of interesting ideas in The Whalebone Box, but the lack of consistency ultimately keeps these concepts away from one another instead of bringing them together, resulting in an underwhelming experience.
The Whalebone Box is released digitally on demand on 3rd April 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Whalebone Box here: