Meanwhile, on a beach Kötting's daughter Eden - who has featured in his previous film This Our Still Life (2011) - wanders on a beach. There is a bracing amateurishness to the film and a determination not to take Clare too seriously. Passers by comment on proceedings and at times the film seems to include its own 'making of' documentary. "That's not John Clare," an elderly villager waspishly points to Toby Jones on being told they're filming John Clare. Expert and Clare scholar Dr. Simon Kovesi is dressed as a prize-fighter (another delusion on the part of the poet who for a time believed he was Lord Byron) and goes a round with the straw bear before sitting down on a park bench with Sinclair for a chummy interview, during which he gets increasingly irritated by the boom microphone that Sinclair prods in Kovesi's face. Comic book writer and wizard Alan Moore is also interrogated and talks about the psychic inability of people to leave Northampton, grumpily noting that even the local weather forecasts refuse to mention it.
Windmills turn on hill tops, traffic thunders by and Jones potters on through the spoilt English countryside: "the self-consumer of my woes". However, at times the amateur feel gives way to a simple arbitrariness. Photographed in black and white, one wonders why a nature poet - even a minor one - would see the world in black and white. "The forest creates acoustic hallucinations," we are told. "Your eyeballs turn to milk." But the sight of Jones in period dress walking by a busily trafficked road and occasionally accompanied by masked figures feels like an amateur dramatics view of insanity, all tambourines and dressing up. The poetry centres on Clare's most famous poem 'I am', which is recited on several occasions - Sinclair even refers to one reading as the 'showstopper' of the film - but rather than elevating Clare above his established reputation as a "minor nature poet who went mad", the film ultimately compounds it.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty