Michael Hayward's Blog

VIFF 2022: "The Hermit of Treig"

Michael Hayward

"It's known as the lonely loch," says Ken Smith when we first meet him, a grey-haired and slightly stooped man in his early 70s, as he stands on the flank of a windswept hill in the Scottish Highlands, looking down upon the waters of Loch Treig. This isolated location is where Smith has lived for over 40 years, year-round, in a rustic cabin without electricity, his home heated only by a wood fire. "The score now is one," he says with evident satisfaction, referring to the current population in the region of the lake. "And that's me." You're immediately curious to know more about this man: what motivates someone to seek out such extreme solitude, so far away from towns and neighbours: 27 miles on foot to the nearest post-box? Was he running away from someone or something? Is there some sort of trauma in his past?

Curiosity is what drove Lizzie MacKenzie to seek out Ken Smith while in her early twenties, having heard tales of this eccentric and solitary man while she was working in a pub. In a statement on the Screen Scotland website she explains how this initial curiosity led eventually to her decision to make the film: "[I] was so struck by his joie de vivre; the sparkle in his eyes and presence, despite him living in what most people would consider poverty, that I could never shake the idea of making a film about him despite having never made a film before. It took 7 years of writing letters and annual hikes into his remote woodland to get to the place where we were both ready to start filming, and I think that established friendship between us is what makes the story so special."

The Hermit of Treig is indeed a special story, and the setting is visually spectacular. The film is well worth a viewing. But if you're hoping to pick up some useful tips on "how to be a hermit in Scotland" you'll be somewhat disappointed. "Can anyone just decide to settle on the shores of just any Scottish loch?" you might wonder—as I did, while sketching out (on the back of a cocktail napkin) the details of my own future Scottish lochside hermitage. "Would no-one mind if I decided to fell trees to build my rustic cottage? Is there no game-warden who might object while I fish from shore, and forage food?" Yes, filmmaker Lizzie MacKenzie's documentary leaves many of these practical questions about the hermit life unanswered; so further research might be required before you say your last goodbyes, pack up your axe and fishing rod, and set out for remotest Scotland to begin your lonely future life.

There are two in-theatre screenings of The Hermit of Treig as part of VIFF 2022, on Sunday, October 2 and on Friday, October 7 at the Cinematheque. The Hermit of Treig can also be streamed through the VIFF Connect app. See here for more information on the film. You can view a trailer for The Hermit of Treig here.



Kris Rothstein's Blog
Kris Rothstein

VIFF 2019: MODES 1

A collection of experimental short films encourages immersion in image and sound.
Geist news

Winners of the 15th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest!

Announcing the winners of the 15th Annual Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest!
Michael Hayward's Blog
Michael Hayward

VIFF 2019: "Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom"

A young Bhutanese teacher, wrestling with his commitment to that career, is sent to the remote Himalayan village of Lunana, to fulfill the final year of his contract.