The Beginning and End of Time
‘It ain’t why, why, why, why, why,
It just is.
Van Morrison Summertime in England,
There is much to admire in Shelagh Honan’s film installation Aistear. There is the breathtaking cinematography of the work; the stark beauty of the landscape brought to screen in a way that seduces the senses. Encased in mystery, a single female can be seen moving through a landscape, trying – in a curious manner – to connect with the ‘just is’ of nature. There is the mapping of time; the individual is not moving in a chronological timeframe: from the present into the future, but along a networked rhizome, where past meets the future, and the present is haunted by the ‘not yet.’
Ghosts appear all along the landscape. The girl enters a small farm house, where the camera cuts to a frontal shot of an elderly woman smoking a cigarette. Grey haired, forlorn, the woman may well be a relative of the girl but she could be the girl as she sees herself in the future. Time is out of joint: all moments seem to coexist in harmony with one another. This is the spiritual underpinning of this cinematic work, seducing us in gradients of form. Echoes of Andrei Tarkvosky’s masterpiece Stalker (1979) are felt throughout; the isolation of the pandemic experience (the backdrop to Honan’s installation) a play on the isolation depicted in that great cinematic work of our time. In Stalker the protagonists experience a degree of acceptance when in direct contact with the materiality of the earth: the ‘just is’ of nature. The girl yearns for a similar awakening. She moves in silence through the land that she wants to accept as hers. But she appears to realise, perhaps like many of us did during the pandemic, that real acceptance comes through sensuous engagement: replacing the ‘why, why, why, why’ of the unsettled mind with the ‘just is’ of the accepting one. Perhaps this is the real journey of the film: the gradual realization as we grow older that nature is not something out there we have to control, but a part of us we have to accept.