The inaugural image of C.W. Winter and Anders Edström’s first feature places a woman of a certain age screen-center; undressing and stepping into the Baltic Sea, she begins a routine that bookends The Anchorage, an accomplished film whose generous spirit is harbored by an insistent aesthetic austerity. After a brief visit by her daughter and her young companion (Elin Hamrén and Marcus Harrling), the single Ulla (Ulla Edström) is left alone in her small and rural fishing village, her household chores given the long-take treatment and her voice irregularly appearing as a nondescript narrative supplement to the events on screen. The arrival on the island of an anonymous, elusive visitor—identified curiously as “the hunter”—and its impact on the middle-aged Ulla, gives the film an understated narrative puncture, a subtle counterpoint to Winter and Edström’s magnificently realized world of reserve and routine.
A Swedish production from 2006 that was first screened theatrically at the 2009 Locarno Film Festival, The Anchorage collects and uses a variety of stylistic devices that arguably originate with the European art house (e.g. the long take, extended duration, emphasis on the quotidian and unremarkable, wide shots), and discovers meaningful, thoughtful ways to put them to work. The Akerman connection is certainly worthy, the film owning just as much stylistic indebtedness to the droll off-screen narrative voice of News from Home as it does to the housekeeping of Jeanne Dielman, though one often feels that Winter and Edström’s lingering images, and their conspicuous interest in what lays beyond the foreground, are also partial responses to Akerman’s own influences, notably the Michael Snow of Wavelength and Back and Forth. Characters in The Anchorage (and there are few of them) are wont to wander in and out of frames, a choice that suggests something more pertinent, more interesting, and perhaps more meaningful at the far end of the action.
The action itself is limited to Ulla on her boat, fishing, cooking, listening to talk radio—a figure either enclosed inside her home or disappearing behind trees and rocks. Co-director Edström, who also served as the film’s cinematographer, is careful to transform the everyday into images that are incantatory, graceful: sunlight shifts behind clouds in ways that cast unpredictable shadows and highlights on objects; a bonfire snaps and sparkles during magic hour; and a rainstorm covers windows and trees. The Anchorage is thus a film that makes paying attention an indisputable component of the pleasure it gives, and the feeling it imparts. The images it finds, and the sounds it collects, play like ruminative surrogates for the barely disclosed inner life of its protagonist, a solitary woman whose daily experiences become inseparable from the rhythms of her environment in this exquisite debut feature.