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The Nine Muses - review in Sight & Sound magazine

Review relating to a film, 2012
Published by: Sight & Sound
Year published: 2012
Number of pages: 1

image of The Nine Muses - review in Sight & Sound magazine

A review of The Nine Muses, written by Mark Fisher, appeared in the same February 2012 issue of Sight & Sound as ‘One from the Heart’, an important feature on filmmaker John Akomfrah that appeared on pages 44-46. Fisher’s review appeared on page 75. Extracts as follows:

“The Nine Muses returns to some of the preoccupations that John Akomfrah broached with the Black Audio Film Collective in the 1980s. Specifically there are echoes here of the ways in which the BAFC’s Handsworth Songs (1986) explored the experience of immigration via the archive. But where the film combined archival images with footage of the then urban present, The Nine Muses stitches its archival material together with stunning film in a serenely empty Alaska…

What is the role of the images in Alaska? in Akromfrah’s hands, Alaska becomes an expressionist take on how the immigrant from warmer climes might see the land in which they arrive: cold, hostile and friendless, yet also strangely beautiful and captivating. Alaska here looks like the end of the world, in a double sense: as in the limits of hospitable territory, a place that, against all the odds was settled; but also the world after a terrible disaster - an ice desert, snowbound ships in dock, looking as if they have been abandoned, mountains that might never have felt a human footprint. For a while it seems as if there are no humans left here; none except the explorers, clad head to toe in brightly coloured protective clothing, standing immobile in the landscape. The hoods they wear eliminate any defining characteristics - they could equally well be aliens. We don’t see any other human figures in this sublimely forbidding landscape; instead we are left to infer their presence, for what we do see is cars, speeding down solitary highways. Even here, it seems, the only constant is movement.”

A list of the film’s credits appears at the end of Fisher’s review. The credits are in turn followed by the following notes:

“A mixture of archival material and new footage shot and ask Liverpool the film is divided into nine chapters each given the name of one of the muses from Greek legend: Calliope (Epic Poetry) Clio (History), Erato (Love), Euterpe (Music), Melpomene (Tragedy), Polyhymnia (Hymns), Terpsichore (Dance), Thalia (Comedy) and Urania (Astronomy).
      The archival material is, in the main, devoted to the experience of immigrants who have moved to the UK, and consists primarily of images of travel, work and home. The new material is elusive and poetic.”

Related people

»  John Akomfrah OBE CBE

Born, 1957 in Accra, Ghana