Review: An artist is revisited in ‘Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy’

Film Critic

It’s not just superhero movies that get sequels, art-house hits get them as well. So, 16 years after his “Rivers and Tides,” Thomas Riedelsheimer returns with another examination of the life and work of environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy, “Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy.”

That first film, intoxicating and meditative by turns, not only opened a portal into a fascinating creative mind, it also served as kind of a spiritual experience, transporting viewers into a privileged space where tranquillity was there for the asking.

But, just as Heraclitus said no man ever stepped into the same river twice because “it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man,” so is the experience of “Leaning Into the Wind” subtly different from the previous film.


Some things of course are the same, including the luminous cinematography of Riedelsheimer, who serves as his own cameraman, and an evocative score by Fred Frith.

And Goldsworthy is still rooted in his farm near the village of Penpont in Scotland’s Dumfriesshire. “I’m bound up in this place,” he says, and to hear him talk about changes in a nearby forest as if they were the stuff of Shakespearean drama is always a pleasure.

But of course Goldsworthy has changed and evolved as an artist since that first film, and “Leaning Into the Wind” inevitably reflects that.

For one thing, he now frequently collaborates with his daughter Holly, and though he gruffly insists “it’s early days” for their partnership, that change lends a different, more companionable but less ethereal, quality to the way he makes art.

(To complete the circle, it turns out that the director-cinematographer is working with his son, Felix Riedelsheimer, as a camera assistant.)

More to the point, Goldsworthy seems to be taking on an increasing number of larger, more international projects in places ranging from St. Louis to Brazil’s Ibitipoca Reserve, some of which are hard to grasp in the brief glimpses the film provides.

Goldsworthy has gotten more interested in urban projects, in doing things in places like Scotland’s capital Edinburgh, and though his work is always worth seeing these pieces tend not to captivate the way his wilderness work does.

Also, though the bond between subject and filmmaker is if anything closer than it was the first time around, the conversation between Goldsworthy and Riedelsheimer does not hold us the way it did in “Rivers and Tides.”

But all this aside, it wouldn’t be right to ignore the wonders that “Leaning Into the Wind” does provide, like the creation of a path right through the center of Ice Age boulders found and gathered in New England.

And, given that Goldsworthy says at one point, “you can walk on the path or you can walk through the hedge,” it’s no surprise to see him having his way with any number of hedges, often to amusing effect.

Even if some things have changed, spending time with an artist who’s concerned, as he’s said in interviews, with “the permanence of temporary objects and the temporality of permanent objects,” is always worth the journey.


‘Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Nuart, West Los Angeles

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