The Trouble with Nature Review

Awaking in a field of swaying lavender, famed philosopher Edmund Burke (Antony Langdon) jumps up – muttering under his breath, ‘this isn’t what I imagined at all – there’s nothing here except lavender and more lavender’. The reason for his peculiarly placed nap? To find out more about the ‘sublime’ – the very concept he discovered a few years earlier in his book A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful. A creative imagining of the ventures of the 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke, Illum Jacobi’s debut The Trouble with Nature is a clever and thoughtful observation of a man who’s struggling to understand a concept of his very own discovery and a look at the absurd idea that humans can ever truly rule nature.

Antony Langdon and Nathalia Acevedo in The Trouble with Nature (2020)

Photo © The Trouble with Nature 

The concept of the sublime is an idea of overwhelming greatness – something simultanouesly spiritual, aesthetically moving, intelligent and metaphysical; often found in nature and beyond imitation or calculation. It’s a concept Burke himself cannot grasp. Insisting that a trip to the mountains will help him clear his head and give him the inspiration to continue his writings, Burke drags his poor servant, Awak (Nathalia Acevedo) to the alps on a quest to conquer the sublime. 

What we have here is a man of extreme arrogance feeling an entitlement to enlightenment. To him, a man of his wealth, calibre and education is only fitting to feel such fulfilment and awe. He stomps around forests in his velvet suits and heeled boots, demanding that Awak carry all his luggage for him. To him, Awak is merely a foreign woman of a class and background that could never even begin to understand his musings. Yet, while Burke is complaining and swearing about how much he misses London and modernity, Awak is going on a journey of awakening of her own. Despite Burke being the man who supposedly invented the sublime, Awak shows that her mindful nature and kindness towards fauna and flora means that she has a much firmer understanding and appreciation of the sublime.

Photo © The Trouble with Nature 

The Trouble with Nature touches on subjects such as why philosophers have historically always been men of wealth and status and questions their true contributions to the world; also asking why those less privileged, Awak in this case, have always had their opinions and experiences belittled and devalued. Burke is a man whose own ego and greed has clouded his own ability to see beauty – his reaction to seeing wide, open fields of untouched land is ‘all this emptiness – what’s the purpose? It’s useless!’. He’s a man obsessed with results and success – a notion that contradicts with the whole idea of an untouchable force of nature. When he’s risking his life scaling a frosty mountain in his wig and breeches, he’s insistent he’s ‘almost there’, almost reaching the sublime – overseeing that the sublime is not a goal, but an observation of nature.

Photo © The Trouble with Nature 

Infusing zests of comedy with drama, The Trouble with Nature examines what happens when men of theory come to the realities of their practice. From peeing into nests of angry ants to routinely demanding Awak powders his face for him in the middle of a forest, Jacobi ridicules Burke and his inability to authentically connect with nature. A man obsessed with conquering nature – ‘We are masters, born to rule it’ he proudly states – is left embarrassed and humiliated as Jacobi tells how humans, no matter their class or intelligence, will never fully be in control of the natural.

Filled with picturesque scenery and beautiful cinematography, The Trouble with Nature is filled with all the pastoral beauty you could want from a film about the sublime. A dithering, slow-burn look at those who adore nature and those who actively search to disrespect it, The Trouble with Nature is a film that is simultanouesly testing and rewarding. It’s deliberately slow and reflective nature can sometimes be tiresome and repetitive but equally a film that captures nature so purely and beautifully deserves such celebration.

Rating: image-2

Written by Abi Aherne

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