I love Helena Wittmann’s mesmerizing film Drift with a depth of feeling that I find challenging to put into words. Each of the three times I’ve streamed the film, I’ve been riveted, but I look forward to an opportunity—soon I hope—to experience the film in a cinema with superb projection and sound. It is a film that is designed to invite the audience into an immersive experience.
Two friends vacation together and later they part. We follow the journey of one of them as she crosses an ocean. At the end of the film they connect again. Computer-mediated video conferencing brings them together from across the globe in a moment of deeply relaxed friendship. Time seems to fold back on itself at various points in the film. At one moment we see our main character working at a laptop. Photographs of the ocean and sea shells adorn the walls behind her. Later we see her gathering what appear to be those same shells and we see what appears to be those same ocean waves frozen in time.
The film unfolds without tension or drama, employing minimal dialogue and a great deal of movement—walking, swimming in a pool, traveling by bicycle, car, boat, and train—alternating with stillness, including protracted, trance-inducing meditations on the open ocean. No urgent need presses the action forward. I am aware that the filmmaker is offering me the opportunity to be present and absorbed in each moment. As I watch, my mind does not strain to fit together the pieces of a puzzle. I don’t need to know where things are heading or why. I don’t need to engage an emotional arc, and yet there’s nothing cold about the experience. It’s fully embodied. While watching, I feel both calm and exhilarated—in a way I’ve never experienced with any other feature length film.
I’m deeply grateful this film exists and that I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself in its quiet rhythms.