One man, Colin McLaren, 77 years old, artistic, philosophical, erudite and one tiny island, Rakino, isolated with its own small community in the Hauraki Gulf, off the grid, challenging, stunningly beautiful. What made him isolate there 40 years ago?
In most circumstances, a documentary will be created to answer a question, as an educational tool for learning about something that would otherwise be out of reach. The Man On The Island has little in the way of narrative direction and is not focused on a person of any great significance. There is, in fact, very little reason or need for this story to be told. A somewhat simple visual autobiography, this is the story of a man that has been living the life we all lived in early 2020, but for the last 40 years; the story of Colin, the man that chose to live a life of social distancing.
2020 has been a tumultuous year that left a lot of people sitting in isolation for six weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown. The economic uncertainties caused by this lockdown has also led to a lot of people being made redundant. As such, 2020 has been the year that has given us the ability to try new things, work on hobbies, and figuring out alternative sources of income. This is the life that Colin wanted, and where we have begrudgingly put up with being forced away from consumerism and social culture, he has walked towards it with open arms.
The Man On The Island is a peek behind the curtain and into the mindset of a man that has been through extensive isolation. A somewhat intriguing, but simultaneously bleak look at the costs of solitude. Without any real plumbing, electricity services, or shops, Colin has happily turned away from his previous life and done whatever it takes to continue his isolation. A dedication that originates from some antisocial tendencies, and rough edges that his upbringing failed to smooth over, The Man On The Island follows Colin as he reminisces about every "career" move he made to bring in income and fund his questionable need to escape civilised life.
The literal embodiment of the "my way or the highway" rhetoric, our titular character is heavily opinionated to the extent that his mannerisms mirror the antagonistic behaviour of bigots, and will make Colin a somewhat divisive person. A man that ran away, but continues enjoying the privileges of modern life whilst demeaning and debasing them, nostalgic of the times when he was connected to society, but making little effort to reintroduce himself, Colin feels incomplete. As if he has been searching for something, but he hasn't found it yet.
The documentary itself is largely linear in its chronology, with some gorgeous sweeping shots of Rakino Island, and is composed of interviews with the man himself, and a few acquaintances. The Man On The Island is a low-key exploration of the realities around the dream of living a sustainable life off-grid. The government's regulatory bodies are still involved, and even after decades without 9-to-5 job to take up his time, his house remains unfinished. A stark reality that there is no magic bullet for life, every decision comes with its own challenges. And the realisation that when we are faced with mini lockdowns and social distancing, it is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
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