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Beyond This Open Road (1934)

Main image of Beyond This Open Road (1934)
DirectorB. Vivian Braun
Production CompanyFilm Art Group
Production CompanyEpidaurus Films
AssistantIrene Nicholson
MusicRobert Irving

Experimental short about a weekend visit to the countryside, as depicted through visual composition, movement and editing.

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Beyond This Open Road was a low-budget production by Film Art Productions, a unit established by B. Vivian Braun and Irene Nicholson. Braun and Nicholson were the editors of Film Art, a film journal covering experimental and modernist filmmaking. This film, made with a hand-held camera, is directly related to the major interests of the journal in two main ways: firstly, it reflects its interest in 'poetic' filmmaking, stressing strong visual composition; secondly, it reflects an interest in modernist themes, notably rationality and mechanisation.

The film is mostly a reflection of leisure time and shows activities enjoyed by people at the weekend. It is split roughly into four parts: different modes of transport, the journey out, relaxation in the country, and the journey home. The pictorial aspect is most prominent in the third section, which, appropriately for a portrait of leisure, is the most steadily paced sequence. The camera observes people playing in the water, lingering on abstract ripples as they jump in. There is also a use of 'artistic' composition: a couple relaxing are framed behind the spokes of a bicycle wheel; as night descends, figures are framed in silhouette against the sky.

The other sections of the film are more complex, particularly in terms of editing. The beginning of the film shows a selection of different modes of transport, all in close-up and fragmented. The two journey scenes are marked by rapid cutting, which generates the speed and excitement of movement. The journey outwards is depicted in much more detail, and involves a very quick editing tempo. Towards the end of this sequence, the camera seems to almost spiral out of control, demonstrated by a whip pan of overhead trees.

Beyond This Open Road stresses the enjoyment of leisure, but it does so against the backdrop of regulated work. The titles at the beginning reveal that these people are getting away from drab factories and offices. The routine of work that serves as a backdrop to the events is reflected in the form of the film: it is divided into sections, with a slow-fast-slow-fast tempo that is rather machine-like. Fittingly, the journey home at the end occurs at night, as though people are returning to the 'darkness' of their weekly routine.

Jamie Sexton

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Video Clips
Complete film (10:07)
20s-30s Avant-Garde