Rebuilding Word on the Water
Apr 16, 2023
It’s always difficult talking about films like ‘Rebuilding Word on the Water’ because it almost feels like bullying a defenceless child for no particular reason. Films of this nature, niche independent documentaries made on a next to nothing budget are essential to the indie cinema landscape and for shaping the talents of filmmakers, they just aren’t terribly cinematic, and often aren’t particularly interesting either.
The film, which is split into three parts on Youtube, begins with a poem about going to sea in a sieve - it’s a clear early signal of both the sweet heart at the centre of ‘Rebuilding Word on the Water’ but also the eccentric nature of the main players involved. There’s Noy, a frenchman who originally owned the boat before it was converted into Word On The Water, a floating bookshop, in 2010. Noy is a bit of a character to say the least, disappearing frequently but always seeming to return just when he’s needed. There’s also Paddy and John, co-owners of the boat and business, who are both equally enthusiastic about their inventive business model and eager for the restoration plans to get underway. They are joined by an eclectic series of people throughout, all contributing odd jobs towards the restoration of the boat.
The issue is that Dianti, the Dutch barge at the centre of ‘Rebuilding Word on the Water’ is very old - 100 years in fact - and hasn’t been taken out onto the water for around 15 years. A further hiccup is that they have just ten days to reach Hemel Hempstead, where Dianti will undergo maintenance and receive a new, working, engine, before the low at Apsley closes for maintenance itself. Chronicling their journey down the river for repairs, and the continued struggles faced along the way - war in Ukraine, adverse weather conditions, some horrible hangovers - this should be at least mildly interesting, but, in reality, no matter how big an event this rebuild may have felt for those involved, to those with no prior investment, we’re given very little reason to care.
It’s difficult to attribute blame to director Jochnowicz, or anybody involved, though you do sense that some more ambitious directing or editing could add a little more flair and interest to the events on screen. It isn’t as though these aren’t interesting people - they all seem to have led interesting lives, full of stories of hardships and fun times, it’s just difficult to find a sticking point to truly become invested in a story that ultimately amounts for little more than a water-based episode of ‘DIY: SOS’. Granted, ‘Rebuilding Word on the Water has an extremely human touch, and may encourage more people to visit their bookshop, but it quickly becomes repetitive, and, when that happens the rather simplistic editing truly comes to the fore.
Sweet, yes, but cinematic? Not at all. ‘Rebuilding Word on The Water’ would make a sweet little segment on a teatime chat show, but as a film, it’s a long slog, which offers little in the way of thrills, and lots in the way of corny accents and an overload of information.