Margaret Tait (1918-1999), stands out as one of Scotland’s most innovative and stridently independent filmmakers. Although her work was relatively unknown during her lifetime, recent years have heralded a more wide-spread acknowledgement of her significance across several areas of the arts in Scotland – film, art, poetry.
“I think that film is essentially a poetic medium, and although it can be put to all sorts of other – creditable and discreditable – uses, these are secondary.” – Margaret Tait
Three Portrait Sketches (1951, 10 mins)
Early experiments in portraiture, made in Italy, when Margaret Tait was a student at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia, Rome. Portraits of 1: Claudia Donzelli; 2: Saulat Rahman; 3: Fernando Birri.
Portrait of Ga (1952, 5 mins)
An intimate portrait of Tait’s mother, the film was made in Orkney shortly after Tait returned from Rome. Like the other film portraits Tait would go on to make, the film’s focus is on capturing the more elusive qualities of its subject.
Where I am is Here (1964, 35 mins)
“The kind of precision which holds Where I Am Is Here together doesn’t depend on words: about half a dozen recurring themes – a stone thrown in the water, a car door shutting, traffic, buildings seen from passing buses, and so on – act upon each other, and are then accompanied by Hector MacAndrew’s music for my poem ‘Hilltop Pibroch’.”. – M.T.
Aerial (1974, 4 mins)
A short, lyrical film invoking all things elemental. A perfect distillation of Tait’s idea of the film poem as it evolved over time. It is one of her shortest films at just over four minutes long and features no spoken words at all.
“The intention in AERIAL is condensation, so that the emotional effect is direct, as in poetry.” – M.T.
Colour Poems (1974, 12 mins)
Nine linked short films. Memory, chance observation, and the subsuming of one in the other. A poem started in words is continued by the picture, part of another poem is read for the last of the nine. Some images are formed by direct-on-film animation, others are found by the camera. – M.T.
Tailpiece (1976, 10 mins)
The film covers the time of finally emptying a long-time family home, with its personal memories and connection with some of my own work. Fragments of verse, along with young children’s voices released into the emptying rooms and staircases, and an ersatz pop music track, clarify the familiar and the alien in the situation. – M.T.