I work at the harbour. I'm a bloody fisherman.

Bait ( 2019 )

  |   Oct. 8, 2019

Mark Jenkin grew up in a Cornish fishing village and in his third feature film, Bait, he tells the story of how those villages are being left behind by the modern age. It is is filmed in black and white using a Bolex cine-camera on 16mm film, which requires a pain staking procedure of film development unthinkable in the digital age. This requires a different approach to filmmaking, where every scene, every take, must be near perfect. Were it not for the whispers of Brexit on the radio and other hints of modernity, you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a screening of a classic from the early days of cinema. This is a tale of of a vanishing past told through the lens of the past. 

Martin Ward is a fisherman. He's always been a fisherman, as has his father before him. But with the family boat now requisitioned by his brother to bring boozy tourists out for cruises, he's a fisherman without a boat. He spurns his brother's requests to join him and instead struggles on catching fish however he can, saving up money in a biscuit tin for a boat of his own.  Catering for tourists is a living, just not one Martin can live with. His family home has been sold to a well off family, who own the whole street but only come down for the tourist season. They try to build bridges with him, but his resentment is too strong. Martin is the embodiment of the conflict between the villagers and the tourist industry, represented by not just the visitors but also those who seek to profit from them. Fisherman like Martin are afraid of losing more than just their livelihoods, they're afraid of losing their souls.

What the message of Bait is, is not so clear. It doesn't appropriate blame for the demise of the fishing industry. The newcomers have taken all that Martin had, and left him with very little, but he stubbornly refuses to adapt, as if he expects time to stand still for him. The choice of camera could so easily just have been a quirky gimmick, but here Jenkin uses it to tell the story in a way that would otherwise have seemed impossible. The grainy film gives echoes of neorealism and the close up shots and jump cuts that of expressionism. He moves fluidly through the day and nights of Cornwall in an almost ethereal fashion, without much sense of time, drawing the viewer into a mood rather than telling a simple story. In an era of blockbusters, usually involving superheroes, dominating the big screen, Bait should be celebrated for what it is, an utterly unique cinematic experience.

Directed by
Mark Jenkin
Edward Rowe
Giles King
Mary Woodvine
Simon Shepherd
Isaac Woodvine
Runtime: 87 minutes
Bait (2019) on IMDb