The literature of W.G. Sebald is an allusive and elusive subject for a documentary, his work consciously difficult to categorise. Early in Patience (After Sebald), publisher Christopher MacLehose recalls the author’s rejection of pigeonholes. “I want fiction, I want biography, I want travel, I want history… don’t put me in a box – I want to be in all the boxes” Sebald reportedly protested, and Grant Gee’s ambitious documentary attempts, with some success, to follow suit.
Patience is at once an art-house essay, a literary documentary, and a set of unconventional ‘reader notes’ for The Rings of Saturn (in which a walking holiday through East Anglia becomes a hub for ruminations on historical and geographical identity). By transmuting Sebald’s literary style into an approximated filmic equivalent, Gee makes clear his admiration for the writer, and while Patience…’s respectfully meandering gait (though both the Suffolk countryside and Rings…’s themes) lacks incisiveness, the combination of layered chiaroscuro photography and source-text readings is memorably evocative.