Sunday, May 9, 2010



Another Reality Film by Jeff Phillips & Liesbet Verstraeten

"Every human being...they must have a dream, you know? Arni Erickson, 2007

We’ve finally finished our second film, The Chronicles of Balarnia, after working on it for the past nine months. Based on the six weeks we spent on Flinders Island, Tasmania, in the (austral) summer of 2009, visiting our friend Arni “Balarni” Erickson at his “hut village” by the sea, this film is at the next level technically from Cryo 2008, but continues in a similar vein of being a true ‘reality film’ shot by us as we went: no actors, staged events, camera crews, repeating a ‘take.’ None of that. Films of this nature are only possible when your cameras are almost part of your body.

Like Cryo 2008, the soundtrack is all-original music by Jeff Phillips and friends, as well as didge/flute contributions from Dave Johnson; in addition, Tasmanian muso/friend Graham “Holly” Hollingsworth contributed a new track he recorded called “Sweet Train Shuffle.”

Also like Cryo 2008, the pace is fairly slow and even, with no brain-entraining rapid-editing “technical events”; but we have included several spacey “dream-time sequences” consisting of “naturo-delic” overlays.

A big difference between Cryo 2008 and Balarnia is that whereas Cryo ’08 covered an entire year, Balarnia covers only six weeks; this enables a much more comprehensive and in-depth presentation of what it was like to be there, to share what we did and where we went, how we spent our time.

Balarnia opens with some excerpts from The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson, to whom this film is dedicated; it was during our time there that we really discovered the legacy of Rachel Carson, as Arni had a paperback copy of the first edition of Silent Spring.

The film itself is an essentially chronological portrayal of our day-to-day life at Balarnia, where we measured the passage of time not only by the sun, moon and stars, but also by the growth rates of several young chickens who had just been hatched when we arrived.

Arni’s “hut village” has been carefully constructed over the past 20 or so years using nothing new, only driftwood and materials from salvage yards, old houses or barns, junk-yards, or that people gave him. Water is from rainfall. He has no reticulated electricity, only a tiny 12-volt solar panel that runs a small refrigerator. To the casual observer, his buildings may seem ram-shackle and insubstantial; but in reality, the construction is simultaneously solid and artistic. The almost total absence of right-angles, as well as the presence of vegetables growing indoors, would have impressed Hundertwasser!

I came up with the term “semi-permaculture” to describe the mode of living there; Arni said that his buildings weren’t meant still to be standing a hundred years from now. His place is in harmony with nature, and is not the flagrant violation of ecology, economy and beauty that most modern dwellings aspire to be.

Living far from artificial electromagnetic fields may prove to be one of the most essential requirements for sane and healthful living that we can strive for. It’s not easy to do, especially with the almost total ubiquity of mobile phone signals and, just as bad, wireless (“wi-fi”) connections for internet, cordless phones, or other devices.

At Balarnia, however, none of these were present. And there were no other people within several kilometres. We were therefore able to maintain a state of complete union with nature, with the sounds and rhythms of wind, rain, birds, and especially, the ocean. She is truly the “ultimate solution.”

Day and night throughout our weeks there, the sound of the ocean in all its variation of tone and intensity was an absolute constant; only for brief moments, for example, during storms or high wind, or just after a storm, when she was totally still and glassy, was the acoustic connection broken.

When we left, and spent our first night away from the sea in over six weeks, it was hard to go to sleep because something dear to us was missing, something comforting and friendly, the voice of someone you love. I had a similar experience after sleeping on my friend Peter’s sail boat “Chavon” for a couple months in 2004; after sleeping right at the water line, gently moving all night, for the entire time, the first night I tried to sleep on a solid surface was strange and difficult because it was so motionless. There’s something truly magic about water in all her forms.

I won’t tell you too much about the film, but there’s a lot of very colourful imagery of the surrounding landscapes, including Bottleneck Beach with amazing sandstone formations on the hill above; lots of footage of our evolving paintings and other art projects there; and a fair amount of Arni himself, including some footage I shot during my first visit in 2006, but not too much, because, really, we didn’t really see him all that much. We all like it like that! We also show Arni practicing his old job from the Swedish merchant navy; we won’t tell you what it is, but it has something in common with our hand-painted rocks!

We also document the construction of our first medicine wheel, which, like my rock-painting, was very much of a native American inspiration.

The closing credit sequence is in some ways the most artistic part of the film, in that it consists of an extended “naturo-delic” over-lay in the acoustic as well as visual dimensions.

At the very end, I make my first appearance as “film-maker/information activist” and share my views on the legacy of Rachel Carson and of our attitude towards and philosophy of being here now on beautiful Spaceship Earth: “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

One further technical refinement will be made when Ian McAllister of Christchurch masters the soundtrack for us; this should be done in the very near future. At this point we’ll be ready to start sending out copies of Balarnia to everyone we know. Right now, we’ve given away well over 600 copies of Cryo 2008.

Upcoming projects include Cryo 2009, Naturo-delic (beauty and pattern in art and nature), Tutunui-Wananga (the consciousness of whales), and a film about our months on Great Barrier Island New Zealand last year, tentatively entitled Cryotea: Barrier to Beauty.

The Chronicles of Balarnia (NTSC, 4:3, 1 hr. 54 min. playing time)
Another Reality Film by Jeff Phillips & Liesbet Verstraeten
A Cryo-Now Production


* Natural

Jeff Phillips
Batchelor NT
5 May 2010