Networking hermits


Last night I went to a screening of the film ‘Somewhere to disappear‘ a film by Laure Flammarion and Armaud Uyttenhove.  It’s a fascinating story about the photographer Alec Soth‘s quest to find subjects for his latest project ‘Broken Manual‘.

The strap line for the film summarizes that ‘it’s not about running away, but the desire to run away’, which throws light on the autobiographical nature of Alec Soth’s photographic mission.  He seems to be using his memories of childhood – spent in the woods around his Minnesota home – building dens and playing with imaginary friends – as a personal trope to find people who have taken this desire to a whole new level.

One particularly poignant moment in the film records his meeting with a young man living in a cave in the desert.  Inside this rocky recess lie his belongings – a blanket and a gun, amongst a few other practical essentials.  This man is a true escapee.  Soth describes his departure from the encounter, saying that he forgot to say ‘good-bye’ to the man, and was driving away, when the man appears, runs over to him, and hugs him like an old friend.  Soth says that this intimate moment confirms that even though these individuals seek out a solitary lifestyle, and covet it preciously, there remains a fundamental need to connect with others.

Soth goes on to state the need to be ‘carried’ by his stories, and the directors also describe how each conversation with a stranger leads to an encounter with someone else, who in turn recommends a friend, or a friend of a friend, and so on.  Tellingly, though, even in these apparent extremes of isolation, social networking also plays its part.  Some hermits Facebook each other to see if this odd guy with the huge camera has dropped by…

The irony isn’t lost on the audience, and reinforces the notion that the idea of something is often more appealing than the reality.