Breath Taking

Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin

Breath Taking is a short film set in the Golden Valley, Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire.

The 6-minute film, created by artist Sarah Cole and filmmaker Annis Joslin, brings poetic play into the natural landscape. Referred to posthumously as ‘the omnipotent magician’, Capability Brown’s tropes of distraction, deception and sleight of hand are evidenced in the film: a card shuffle, stem of broccoli and Mylar fabric serve to trick the eye.

In developing the film, Sarah Cole consulted a group of mums who attend Little Hands & Little Feet Children’s Centre, part of the Preschool Learning Alliance. Discussing the impact of spectacle, one woman shared her favourite quote: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” The women and their children accompanied the artist and filmmaker into the desolate landscape where they disclosed breathtaking moments in their lives. A slow and repetitive exhale, captured in balloons and bubbles, punctuates the enlightenment landscape.

There is a tension between the celebrated patriarchal history of the landscape and the contemporary women portrayed in the film. Brown is quoted as having taken a grammatical approach to landscape architecture: ‘”Now there’ said he, pointing his finger, ‘I make a comma, and there’ pointing to another spot, ‘where a more decided turn is proper, I make a colon; at another part, where an interruption is desirable to break the view, a parenthesis; now a full stop, and then I begin another subject'”. The women undercut this artificial logic with a single, natural breath.

The film is part of CB300, a nationwide festival celebrating 300 years since the birth of landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716–1783), managed by the Landscape Institute and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The project is also supported by Dacorum Borough Council.

Breath Taking, production still

Breath Taking, video still