Tilda Swinton’s The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger
Directed by Tilda Swinton, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth, Bartek Dziadosz
Prolific artist, philosopher, writer, storyteller and “radical humanist” John Berger is the focus of Tilda Swinton’s vivid four-part cinematic portrait. In 1973, he moved from urban London to the tiny Alpine village of Quincy. THE SEASONS IN QUINCY: FOUR PORTRAITS OF JOHN BERGER examines different aspects of Berger’s life in this remote village in the Alps. In four seasonal chapters, the film combines ideas and motifs from his work with the texture and history of his mountain home.
The four essay films which comprise The Seasons in Quincy each take different aspects of Berger’s life in the Haute-Savoie, and combine ideas and motifs from Berger’s own work with the atmosphere of his mountain home. Each film was created as an individual work of art but they combine to make a feature film. The Seasons in Quincy shows how film can move beyond text, and beyond fine art, to offer a multifaceted and multilayered portrait. These are more than documentary films – they are exercises in thinking in film.
Ways of Listening (Directed by Colin MacCabe, 26 minutes) Tilda Swinton, a longtime friend and collaborator, joins Berger for a frank and revealing conversation.
Spring (Directed by Christopher Roth, 19 minutes) Berger’s seminal writing on animals is illuminated by local farming practice and set alongside other philosophical approaches to animal consciousness.
A Song for Politics (Directed by Bartek Dziadosz and Colin MacCabe, 20 minutes) Berger is joined by writers Ben Lerner and Akshi Singh along with Colin MacCabe and Christopher Roth for a lively political discussion of our present moment and its relationship to the past.
Harvest (Directed by Tilda Swinton, 25 minutes) Berger’s son and Swinton’s children join their parents for a visually rich journey to Quincy from the Scottish highlands, seeing the countryside anew.
United by their central vision and an original score by by Simon Fisher Turner, the four short works that comprise THE SEASONS IN QUINCY beautifully combine to make a feature film.
“An impressively high-minded documentary about writer/art historian John Berger … As a collection, THE SEASONS OF QUINCY is an absolutely inspired way of approaching its subject.” —The Guardian
“Intimate and revealing: a portrait of its subject in which we get closer to him as a personality than a more conventional film could ever take us.” —The Independent
“A beautiful yet uncommon approach to a subject—one that is happily out of step with the frenetic, info-tech lifestyles we’ve adopted. But more importantly, the film is a reflection on creation as a metaphor for human existence.” —The Observer
“One of the most moving moments of the Berlin Film Festival.” —Cinemag
Tilda Swinton has been involved with filmmaking in one way or another for thirty years. The first film she worked on was Caravaggio which won a Silver Bear at the Berlinale in 1985, the first of the seven films she made with Derek Jarman before his death in 1994. Other filmmaking collaborators include Sally Potter, Jim Jarmusch, David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Joel & Ethan Cohen, Lynne Ramsay, Lynn Hershman, Tony Gilroy, Luca Guadagnino and John Maybury. She keeps making cinema pretty much exclusively because of the source it proves to be for her of long-running and life-enhancing friendships and because she loves to go to the pictures. Meanwhile, she is a writer and a co-founder of both the “8 and a Half Foundation”, towards the cine-passion of children globally, and of Drumduan, a pioneering exam-free school in the Highlands of Scotland, where she lives with her twins, sweetheart, four dogs, 11 hens and a tortoise.
Cast: Tilda Swinton, John Berger, Ben Lerner, Akshi Singh, Colin MacCabe, Christopher Roth