Movie Review: Rivers and Tides

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Rivers and Tides is the acclaimed documentary film that features installation artist Andy Goldsworthy and his impermanent nature sculptures. The works are made from natural elements, breathtakingly beautiful, and most are destroyed by the elements soon after they are completed.

Written, directed and photographed by Thomas Riedelsheimer ("Touch the Sound," 2005), the film is a work of art itself. Riedelsheimer's stunning cinematography and meditative style is consistent with Goldsworthy's art, and allows the viewer to appreciate the remarkable works. Goldsworthy is a poetic 46 year old who lives in a rural Scottish village in a stone house with his wife and four young children. He prefers working in his own village, and we also see him working in Nova Scotia, France, and upstate New York.

Goldsworthy's workday entails walking out his door, gathering natural materials and creating his sculptures. When he was in art school and left his cubicle to go outside he became aware that he felt a surge of energy describing it as a "breathlessness" and "uncertainty," adding, "Total control can be the death of a work." He began photographing his work so he could show his professors what he was making. The photographs are the only evidence left of many of the works.

The skillful cinematography reveals Goldsworthy's fluid shapes that gives them a sense of movement and energy, echoing the natural environment. Goldsworthy talks eloquently about his art throughout the film. He makes his sculptures from sticks, leaves, ice sickles, dirt, or stones. They might collapse under their own weight, melt, be blown away or break apart when the tide rises. His work's evanescence is part of its beauty and power; he deals with ideas of destruction, rebirth and renewal.

Goldsworthy creates one of the pieces by crushing a red stone. He tosses the ochre powder in the river and watches how it looks when it hits. It is a little jarring to see the red flowing in the river. Goldsworthy ponders the meanings of red, saying it has tremendous power.

I hadn't seen "Rivers and Tides" since it had its theatrical release in 2001; I was mesmerized by it then, and took my then 9 year-old daughter to see it. She feigned boredom because she thought it might not be cool to like it. But we still talk about Goldsworthy's art, and were both recently excited to see his work locally, at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco -- a winding crack running down the walk approaching the museum that we are told acknowledges the possibility of earthquakes here. "Rivers and Tides" is one of my favorite films; it's available on DVD, and I was happy to learn that it stands up, even on a TV screen.

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield. Air date: February 13, 2007.
More Information:
Rivers and Tides
Written, directed and photographed by Thomas Riedelsheimer