Shot at Spa Mill, a textile mill in West Yorkshire, this short documentary film uses sound and image to evoke the working environment of the mill shop floor. It does not attempt to tell the story of how the yarn produced is made, rather it gives a sense of both the everyday and surreal aspects of the place and people who work there. At times the camera is used to reveal hidden elements of the machinery and the film is loosely organised into sections that depict varying types of mechanical and human movement. Most sounds heard in the film are derived from field recordings made in the mill, its rich soundworld taking a prominent role in this depiction of movement and evocation of sense of place. Naturalistic representation as well as drone-like transformations of machine sounds are used and are combined with occasional fragments of poetry by Andrew McMillan that evoke the local environment and the workers place in it, their own voices also contributing to the film’s sonic make-up.
When discussing the idea of documentary film as an aesthetic project, John Corner has spoken of how combinations of sound and image can enable feelings and ideas to become attached to the objects, bodies and places depicted, and then be changed by them. At the same time, those physical elements are understood as being part of the developing themes of the film. This process is both sensual and intellectual, committed to authentic documentary representation and yet possessed of a dreamlike potential for the indirectly suggestive and associative. The manipulation of sound into music-like forms makes this process of emotional attachment to physical things, the mixing of the sensual and intellectual, and dreamlike suggestion, more powerful, enabling sound and image to connect knowing to feeling. The aim of the film therefore is to give life to Corner’s ideas and allow the listener-viewer to gain an understanding of the mill environment without verbal or written information or the use of a conventional narrative arc.