Glasgow Review: Tracks

As the first salvo of Scottish films at GSFF 2015, the ‘Parenthood’ programme made very clear that great Scottish cinema was going to continue to be right at the forefront of what the GSFF does. And sat at the heart of this prodigious demonstration of quality was the Scottish premiere of Tracks (Claire Oakley, UK, 2014). Now the third short Oakley has both written and directed, this short sees her continue the child’s perspective she so skilfully portrayed in her previous work, Physics.

Her latest proves to be a more poetic and pensive piece than previous films. In fact the opening scene of Tracks has a most extraordinary effect. We see a mythic-looking, iconic stag stalking Scotland’s lush highland plains, but he is densely cloaked all the while in a thick, shrouding fog. As a result this moody reality comes to seem almost unreal, as if it were almost teetering on the realms of the most beautiful animation you’ve ever seen. Excellent location finding and clever framing also allows much of this film to lend a defamiliarising, almost abstract quality to the Highlands’ gorgeous beauty and craggy serenity. Oakley manages this, even without deep fogs, to such an extent that certain shots look almost like Japanese landscape paintings turned into vibrant photographs. And the camera in this ode to the Highlands works in a sort of documenting manner too. Its long, lingering shots slow the pace and allow the scenes and events to speak for themselves. However, the rural serenity we experience is soon painfully dispelled.

A tradition firmly rooted in many ancestral generations sees fifteen-year-old Ed and his father track and kill the majestic beast of the short’s opening. What we see, then, is the timeless, harsh initiation ceremony of “the first kill” played out by a father and son. Except the results prove to be strange. Whilst the fetters of their traditions still bind both father and son to this violent and boisterous act, the results come to suggest how watered-down and unfamiliar these traditions have become in modern Scottish society. Despite the supposed necessity of the humane assassination they carry out, the uncanny carcass they produce leaves both literal and very emotional tracks in its wake. And this pressurised coming of age causes a sort of generational schism too.

For these reasons this film, which isn’t overly gory in its depiction of events, would be a perfect addition to any screenings targeted at young teenagers. Likewise, one might also imagine people like the BFI or similar institutions putting this short to good use, both to engage young audiences and ensure it represents aspects of British life found outside of London. Beyond that, festivals which are looking for slow, poetic, artistic shorts might also consider Tracks a valuable addition.  

Film Details

Original Title: Tracks  

Director: Claire Oakley

Country: UK

Year: 2014

Run Time: 12 mins

Contact:Claire Oakley,

14 March 2015, by Thomas Humphrey