Those not sufficiently steeped in the late W.G. Sebald’s work may find themselves puzzled at this documentary about him. Those who know his work will probably find it perfectly appropriate.
I don’t know Sebald well enough to say whether Grant Gee’s Patience (After Sebald) captures the late writer’s spirit or ideas successfully, but I can say I picked up a copy of The Rings of Saturn, the Sebald book on which this documentary is ostensibly based.
The movie is a sort-of travelogue through the places the narrator visits in Saturn, as well as a rumination by many people—including novelist Rick Moody and historian Marina Warner, among others—about Sebald’s life and work. Gee marks the locations he visits by superimposing page numbers over them.
Meanwhile the interviewees describe how Sebald’s work has informed their own or even changed their lives. Some of them describe their personal relationships with him as their images are superimposed over other on-screen scenes. The process sounds tedious on paper but the tone of wonderment most speakers have, along with some well-placed readings by Jonathan Pryce from The Rings of Saturn, make the whole process rather heady. Patience (After Sebald) is blissfully short, too, and you’ll think about it when it’s over.
The Screen, NR, 90 min.