Documentaries have always had an important place in the world of film and although there are plenty of high quality examples of the genre going back over the decades, in recent years their profile and success have grown and grown, to the point where films such as Hoop Dreams, Farenheit 9/11 and An Inconvenient Truth garner critical and commercial acclaim and box office success measured in nine figures. Lately the format has found a real niche in the area of alarming polemics about the environment, financial markets and nuclear weapons (Enron, Inside Job, Countdown to Zero, An Inconvenient Truth) and has also given us thrilling drama through TT: Closer to the Edge and Senna.
Sadly, Beyond time gives us no thrills and nothing much especially engaging either. Needless to say, the director has a great deal of love for the subject of his documentary, but coming in at 62 minutes it is difficult to see why the film wasn’t simply greenlit for an hour long slot on BBC4 as part of a series on art and culture, rather than being shoe-horned into press screenings and the like. Of course a documentary about the life and work of a painter and sculptor is not going to have the same dramatic heft and compelling arc as, say, Senna, but the film is still unforgivably turgid and lacking in vigor.
Although I am pretty much a novice when it comes to evaluating the artistic merits of Turnbull’s work, a documentary about him should be more compelling, more engaging than this is. It should stimulate the desire to look further into his work, be accessible to those not au fait with him, rather than leave the viewer looking at his watch, waiting for it all to be over. He is clearly a gifted artist and the assorted contributions to this documentary make his place in 20th century art clear, but nothing on show here draws you into an unfamiliar world and piques your curiosity. The content is presented in a highly staid and unimaginative manner and where the best biopic docs leave you wanting to know more, this just induces a shrug.
Not very successful at all and not one that can be easily (or honestly) recommended. You can find out more about Turnbull at his website, here and view the trailer below.