Gardner, Robert (1925-2014)


In general style, manner and ambition, as well as in purely chronological terms, the main body of Robert Gardner’s work belongs to the period of ethnographic film-making that follows on after the early period that is the focus of The Silent Time Machine website.

But although widely and justly regarded as a highly original innovator, in some respects his work represents a reprise of earlier modes of non-fiction film-making.

In technical terms, the clearest expression of this was his refusal to use synchronous sound recorded on location, even after this became practically feasible in the course of the 1960s.

In stylistic terms, it is evident in the poetic aesthetic that he brought to his work, in which the subjects of the film are primarily foils for the philosophical reflections of the film-maker.

This is particularly true of his first two films, Blunden Harbour and Dances of the Kwakiutl, both made in collaboration with William Heick and released in 1951, which, in their asynchronicity and poetic voice-over, as well as in their technical simplicity, have much in common with films of ethnographic interest made earlier in the century. 

Text: MacDonald 2015: 48-77, Henley 2020: 256-287.


© 2018 Paul Henley