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Margaret Tait – Selected Films 1952-1976

Margaret Tait was one of Britain’s most unique filmmakers. Her life’s work consisted of making film poems and over the course of 46 years she produced over 30 films including one feature. She also published three books of poetry and two volumes of short stories. This DVD contains a collection of films made by Tait between 1952 and 1976. Films included on this DVD are:

Portrait of Ga (1952),
Aerial (1974),
Hugh MacDiarmid,
A Portrait (1964),
Colour Poems (1974),
Where I Am Is Here (1964),
Place of Work (1976),
Tailpiece (1976),
John Macfadyen (The Stripes in the Tartan) (1970)

Black-and-white and colour
Silent and sound
Running time: 110 minutes


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Please read Understanding catalogue records for help interpreting this information and Using footage for more information about accessing this film.


Reference number: 3699

Date: 1974

Director: filmed by Margaret Tait [Stuart Pound]

Production company: Ancona Films

Sound: sound

Original format: 16mm

Colour: bwcol

Fiction: fiction

Running time: 4.00 mins

Description: Impressions of air, fire, earth and water. Margaret Tait described this film as follows: 'Touches on elemental images ; air, water, (and snow), earth and fire (and smoke) all come in to it. The track consists of a drawn-out musical sound, single piano notes and some natural sounds".

LUX VHS viewing copy held.

There are slightly differing versions held - contact National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive for further detail.

Margaret Tait on this title: "Yes, really a very simple film, if you allow yourself to respond to it instead of trying to follow it intellectually. There is no narrative and no argument, it seems more like a musical theme conjured out of the whole rather than presented as point to be taken. There's a general theme of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water - in a different order - air, water, earth, fire and then air again, with all the elements intermingled. But just as a sort of song or even a kind of nursery rhyme. Although I don't understand musical structure - I can't really follow the structure of piece of music when I'm listening to it - but I think that film- structure is more like musical structure than anything else."

See also Additional Information file at 11/1/455. Paper Archives 4/5/119, 4/11/651, 4/5/92.

The Tait papers are deposited in Orkney Archives. Currently being catalogued. For any enquiries please contact Principal Archivist.

See National Film Theatre Programme Notes - Art In Cinema - The International Avant-Garde Film.

Online tour of this title, interpreted by contemporary Scottish writer Ali Smith can be found on the LUX website at: [last accessed 3/4/2008]

The British Artist's Film and Video Study Collection at based at Central St. Martin's College of Art and Design holds an artist's file on Margaret Tait.

The British Film Institute National Library holds many of the published articles on her and her work.

In 1979 Margaret Tait was the subject of a BBC Scotland 'Spectrum' arts programme.

Credits: Ancona Films presents
filmed by Margaret Tait
[Helen Tatlow, David Croft, Malcolm Bates]

Shotlist: [shotlisted from LUX VHS viewing copy. Control track]

title and opening credits (0.19) [bw] experimentally presented images of air, fire, earth and water. Includes footage of trees rippling in wind, snow falling on street, birds on tree branch in snow, children sledging (1.36) [col, some underexposed] digging earth with fork [bw] c/u leaves [in negative and then pos] [col] c/u tree leaves, a dead (?) bird, worm wiggling in earth, fire burning in hearth, birds again on windowsill in snow and feeding on bread [bw] sky and clouds (4.06)