Paradise Lost?

Taking its name from John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost (1667),the theme of the second sea / film shorts night brought together moving image that translated a sense of loss. The following text showcases two of the films screened.


Lost love, trust, political stability, landscape or environment, something missing, passed or in an altered position.


Paradise is/can be a dream like state, where fantasy and reality are often mixed and the permeance of it is constantly threatened. Hinterland(2002),directed by artist filmmaker Esther Johnson, encapsulates this notion. Focusing on an East Riding Community who live on the fastest eroding coastline in Europe which, as the opening credits state, has been ‘retreating in the face of the North Sea for around 6,000 years’ the film archives this  disappearing coastline and the people that still live on it.  In an interview about the film Johnson comments on her intrigue as to ‘who would live in such an environment’; through the film Saffron, Peter and Charlie offer her an answer, individuals who live literally on the edge, the hinterland. 


This trio of voices narrate the film and speak of the temporary nature of their status. Charlie comments on ‘only having 15 years left,’ and having the ‘connection with nature and natures attrition, each year seeing your landscape change dramatically.’ Saffron mentions the ‘peace quiet and solitude’ and how she loves ‘being self-sufficient’; it is her paradise. But this is ultimately tinged with a sense of the harshness of life ‘there has been days where I sleep on the sofa with my backpack packed with the car facing that direction….it can all be quite scary.’


Shot on Bolex 16mm, narrative mirrors image. The black and white patina and 16mm frame, creates a sense of ‘archive,’ recording and preserving a threatened lifestyle.


An empty chair, an animal ornament; life once lived.


Still, Hinterland, 2002, Esther Johnson

Here, analogue film, like its subject matter, is temporal unless properly preserved; a victim of the ravages of time. Charlie speaks of ‘repairing’ aspects of his home, which unless probably maintained will be lost to nature. Saffron suggests to the council that there are ways of helping to prevent the erosion of land: ‘There are ways of doing it,’ but the lack of attention means that, ‘we just have to accept’.


A shot rests on the screen, a slightly overgrown slabbed path leads directly into the slowly lapping sea, as a dark shadow hovers on the left. 

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Still, Hinterland, 2002, Esther Johnson

Still, Hinterland, 2002, Esther Johnson

Another coastline, and often described by those who visit it as a ‘paradise’ is Benidorm. Located on the Southwest Spanish Coast, it is a well-known (perhaps more notorious) holiday resort, a favourite with British tourists searching for sun, sea and an all-inclusive stay.

Life is not always shining for everyone in the resort, however; as Raphaelle Tinland’s, film Benidorm, (2017)explores. It follows a young mother, Mere, and her daughter Alma, living in an out-of season resort. Mere works nights at a hotel reception and during the day Alma is at school, so their only point of contact is via walkie talkie. 

The film opens with Alma closely watching another mother and daughter on a bus, who show a tenderness for each other, pulling one another close as the mother pushes a lose strand of hair behind the girl’s head.




Alma asks down the walkie talkie. Now in the small dark kitchen of her home, she wants an answer to the innocent question ‘I can’t find the Ketchup.’ Her mum responds, ‘Shit I forgot…I’ll get you some tomorrow, okay?’ Time passes as they watch the same TV show together, but on different units interjected by guests arriving at Mere’s hotel desk.

 The film is darkly lit and told largely through interior spaces. Exterior shots allow the audience to look in through the windows framing the characters. Like an Edward Hopper painting, the viewer is external to the action, observing their claustrophobic and separate worlds.

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Still from Benidorm (2007),Raphaelle Tinland

Still from Benidorm (2007),Raphaelle Tinland

At one point, the mother goes outside for a break, sitting by the swimming pool, it is completely empty apart from  two inflatable tortoises one large, one small; parent and child perhaps? They bump into each other, and like the mother and daughter on the bus at the start their presence again teases an intimacy that Mere does not currently share with Alma.

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Still from Benidorm (2007),Raphaelle Tinland

Meanwhile Alma, alone in the apartment, speaks and laments her lack of youth, 

commenting on how, ‘sometimes I’d like to be a child again.’ She yearns for a past and present that does not exist, and her adultness (if that is even a term) is confirmed by the domestic tasks that she undertakes - including preparing a meal for herself and emptying the washing machine. 


Her questions, however, remain unanswered, and the film ends as it started, with Alma on the bus by herself. And so the cycle continues.

Words by: Martha Cattell



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