Wordland, 2008
Phil Coy
35 minutes, HD

Wordland bears witness to the eroding east coast of England and the devastating effects of floods on North Norfolk. Filmed in and around the villages of Walcott and Cley next the Sea, Coy’s film combines interviews, field recordings, archive footage of the flood of 1953, and a specially commissioned sound score from musician, Alexander Tucker.

Wordland collapses techniques of documentary filmmaking into montage film and structural film practices. Drawing on the history of British experimental film, Coy’s digitally produced film presents playful juxtapositions of processes and imagery to produce a romantic portrait of loss.

The work references two other romantic, apocalyptic visions of England: a painting, The Last of England (1855) by Ford Maddox Brown, and the 1988 film of the same name by Derek Jarman. Like them, Coy’s film depicts an island under siege. In the island of Wordland the deterioration of celluloid in archive film echoes the erosion of land and thus of a nation’s boundary, alongside an elder generation’s fragmented accounts of the breakdown.

With distinct melancholic notes the film opens with long establishing shots of the sea gently lapping the shores of North Norfolk. Gradually shots of the land are introduced, and before long voices emerge out of the slowly building sound score. Through the use of intertitles and isolated words and phrases that simultaneously refer to the erosion of the coast and to the language of filmmaking, Wordland builds narrative through Coy’s non-linear editing of snippets from a myriad of recordings and footage.

Tucker’s sound score uses drones, layered vocals and fractured song structures, blending the musical genres of doom metal and folk. The pastoral themes and atmosphere, and his structural approach to musical composition relate closely to Coy’s own themes and working methods.

Wordland was the first film commissioned and produced by City Projects. It was funded by Arts Council England and The Elephant Trust, with support from East Anglian Film Archive, LUX and MITES.

Dan Kidner (2008), Ed. Taylor Le Melle (2021)