Reflections on Geographies of Solitude as a Meditative Resistance 

by Sophie Beckitt

Geographies of Solitude is a film made in collaboration both with Zoe Lucas and the natural
world, unique in the way the Jacquelyn Mills, film-maker, feels just as part of the film as the
protagonist. The impact of the film-maker being a part of the landscape of the film also
brings you, as the viewer into the landscape. I found myself left with no gauge on how much
time had passed, led through all weather, seasons, daylight, moonlight, sun, stars, wind,
horses living, horses dying, seals, beetles, swaying grasses and blowing sands. The result is
a cyclical effect where one 16mm sequence flows into the next and the island transforms
into a whirring film reel made up of natural materials.

Mills has been quoted saying that the best thing about isolation in the pandemic era was;
‘slowness. Reading on empty beaches… The unknown.’ A mantra to live by, I thought it also
encapsulated the journey Mills takes the viewer on in the constructing and deconstructing of
layers throughout the film. Mills’ work is immersive and sensory, constructing a meditative
portrait of Sable Island, with environmentalist and researcher Zoe Lucas as the facilitator,
unravelling the rich ecosystem of the 20-mile-long island, through a combination of archival
and contemporary footage.

Through lack of people depicted in the film, the A-frame, as a building, becomes a centre-
piece; a relic of a time of different researchers, bustling activities of previous scientific
projects. We watch it slowly sink into the sand in the same way the sand envelops the horse
bodies, so tangibly all part of the same cycle in returning to the earth. The A-frame, a symbol
of time passing as the natural world reclaims it erasing its history, also serves to highlight
how, amongst the change and dissolution, Lucas is the only constant. Animals have died
and been born, the A-frame long been given over to the landscape, and against that you see
Lucas’ personal progression through her decades worth of data written up in rigorously
detailed notebooks and Excel spreadsheets, documenting the minutiae of Sable Island’s

In this though I saw Lucas’ own resistance. Whilst lulled into a meditation throughout the
film, the pace that Mills constructs and the invitation to slow down is subtly anti-capitalist by
nature. Lucas’ life-work and life-time devotion to the ecosystem of Sable Island is admirable,
but I couldn’t ignore the capitalist-indoctrinated voice in my head wondering for what
purpose was she working, and to what end? But this film is inherently not about finding that
why. Its resistance comes in the way the human is de-centred, letting the ecosystem speak
for itself through the recording of Lucas’ findings. In such findings we’re shown an increase
in microplastics washing up on the sands, the result of the wider negative human impact on
the environment finding its way into Lucas’ remote ecosystem. At this point I see the trap I
fell into and smile to myself (whilst shaking my head) as I see the irony; the very mindset
that voiced the question of Lucas’ purpose in my head is part of the system contributing to
the increase in plastics washing up on her beach.

A message throughout Geographies of Solitude is the importance of being present,
grounded and connected to the environment in which we live. It is a film that emerges out of
the place, the animals, the environment in all its remoteness. The result is intimate; the
viewer enters a lyrical connection to the natural world explored by Mills, as filmmaker, and
Lucas, naturalist and environmentalist. You, as the viewer, find yourself slowing down,
immersed in the wildness, rawness and remoteness of this ecosystem that constitutes the
20-mile strip of land forming Sable Island.

TOA volunteer Sophie Beckitt (she/her/they) is a final year History & History of Art student and emerging creative based in Edinburgh. Currently researching cultural representations of nuns, witches and lesbian desire – reads, watches and writes about anything including, but not limited to, the three.