HERMAN MELVILLE: CONSIDER THE SEA
Richard Wilbur appears at the ocean’s edge to lead us into Melville’s
mind, “immersed in the sea,” as he once said. Youthful
whaling experiences in the South Seas marked his consciousness forever.
From islands in the South Pacific to New York to Pittsfield, Massachusetts,
the film traces his steps as he leaves shipboard life to fictionalize
his adventures, finds fame, then disrepute, and soon after the Civil
War, turns to writing poetry. Dramatized excerpts of Moby Dick and Billy
Budd, both stories set at sea, contrast with the landlocked Bartleby
the Scrivener. Throughout, the film weighs the virtues of the
sea versus the land. The question lies at the base of Melville’s
inner “at seaness.” But it’s the infinite, indefinite
freedom of the sea that wins his final allegiance (30 min.).