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"Only the River Knows" - DVD review

Some of you here may know that I was involved with the production of four television series about fishing - whilst they went out on some pretty obscure satellite channels and were therefore not seen by that many people, if there was one thing they did give me it was a fair amount of experience in what it takes to go about the whole "filming of fishing" process. As such I have a lot of respect for people who get their act together and head off to make a film such as "Only the River Knows". I have half a clue what it takes and I know how much time, energy, passion and strength you need to see these projects through. The simple fact that such a professional looking fly fishing film as "Only the River Knows" exists as a DVD or digital download is a massive accomplishment in itself.

That this fly fishing film looks as professional as it does and manages to hold one's interest virtually the whole way through is outstanding. I don't know the ins and outs of how this film was made, but I have to surmise that although for the most part it doesn't look so on screen, the budget surely had to have been pretty minimal - but why ? Because I just can't imagine that there is much money flying around to pump into films like these. The secret then is how to take small budgets and make them look like much bigger budgets up on the screen (something that my two younger brothers have learnt how to do so well with their own film making).

I am not going to go into the story of the film here because you can read plenty of other reviews online that deal with it. I get the idea, I kinda like the concept and the script, and overall I think "Only the River Knows" works pretty successfully as an actual film that you can watch, follow a story/script and move along with the characters.

Yes, New Zealand looks awesome in this film, and yes, some of those trout are just monsters. Honestly, the size of a few of the wild browns that are caught almost defy belief, and if there is one underlying theme that jumps at me throughout the whole film it's "obsession". I actually think the film goes a long way towards showing how fishing can take over a person's life, indeed perhaps it does so more than the film makers planned for, and I love this. I feel that I could show this film to a person who questions why we fish and they would understand why we do by the end of it.

But herein lies my one main "feeling" with this film. It's not a criticism, merely an observation that has stuck with me from the first time I watched it - I get how the different filming styles are mixed up to represent the past and the present, but as a stills photographer at heart I could not help but almost fall into the TV with the stunning sequences of a young Lars Lenth fishing his magical river in the wilds of New Zealand. The dreamlike quality and the reflective nature of the camera work just did it for me so much that at times I felt somewhat reluctantly dragged back to the present as the film moved on.

So on the one hand I cannot praise these "Lars Lenth as a young man" sequences enough, but on the other hand I wonder if perhaps a few more films down the line and these talented film makers will have become that more experienced at their craft that they will be able to construct, shoot, and edit their way in and out of a narrative with a touch more skill and believability.

But is that fair of me ? This fine film is one serious achievement that of course is going to produce different feelings and emotions in each viewer. I personally think that making a believable film about fishing is an incredibly hard thing to do (and of course I was only ever involved in programmes and not films), yet I think these Sellfish Media people have had a serious crack at it and for the most part pulled it off well. I actually watch very little fishing myself perhaps because I think at heart I struggle slightly with somebody else's take on a such a personalised passion that consumes my life and thus feels so incredibly personal to me if that makes any sense, so I can't help but respect the fact that parts of "Only the River Knows" resonate so strongly with me.

You need to see this film, believe me. It doesn't matter if you are into fly fishing or not, because by the end of it you'll be searching around online for a one way ticket to New Zealand and a crack at those massive wild browns. If a kind of fishing can be described as pure, then seeing those spot-perfect fish move and rise to flies in such clear, unspoilt water is surely it. I understand the joy, the frustration, the elation and the tears. I get that fishing is life, and I take my hat off to the people behind "Only the River Knows". The phrase "well done guys" perhaps sounds a touch condescending, but I don't mean it like that at all. Check out a trailer here and then either buy the DVD here or make it all very easy and download it here. I can't wait to see what these Sellfish Media guys get up to next...................

Henry Gilbey3 Comments