‘Bait’

Here’s a weird one — Bait (2019) superficially feels like an art school film, but it’s not because of the attention to detail, the sound, the film-score, the story, and the editing, it’s all very accomplished.

The hand-processed film has that kind of ‘fuck-off’ anti-quality with its scratches and accidental solarisation (which is actually a challenge to achieve in a consistent and aesthetically pleasing way). This kind of analogue love reminds me of Tricky in the 1990s incorporating the crackling and scratches from his favourite (sampled) LPs — likewise, Bait is an unashamed homage to analogue. It’s telling that Mark Jenkin (the director, camera operator, screenwriter, editor, and producer) chose to use a wind-up, 16mm Bolex camera for a film released in 2019, when he could have achieved superior quality (with much greater convenience) using an iPhone and Final Cut easilly converting the digital files to monochrome.

Bait could literally have been made in the 1950s or even the 1930s. It’s a handmade film using home darkroom processing techniques. Watching it, (apart from the modern cars and people sitting in front of laptop computers) there’s little real of sign of the modern world. Bait plays to the history of cinema and politically it’s as if the film is saying that nothing has really changed in the world. The sound has been added in post production through dubbing, which heightens the retro feel.

Most of the shots are tight, close-ups of objects and faces with an emphasis on the rhythmic cuts between shots (although there’s a un-fancy documentary feel there’s none of that shaky handheld stuff here or, in the other direction, slick Hollywood-style crane work) it’s all pretty much static shots.

There’s a powerful sequence which is completely silent and draws on the rhythm of the editing, the menace of possibility between the individual shots. It encapsulates the tension between the dying fishing industry and the insurgent ‘tourists’ — a classic confrontation between the working-class locals and the business-owning middle-class invaders.