Alison McApine’s Second Sight invites us into the world of 80-year-old former preacher Donald Angus MacLean, a man much like how he takes his tea: four sugars and a splash of milk paired with a jam doughnut. They journey through the Hebrides in pursuit of phantom cars, second sightings, musing upon the (bitter, but often sweet) nature of memory.
McApine’s background as a poet really shines through as she builds a sense that time is not linear but flows directionless, like mist slipping through fingers, ripples on the loch, or clouds pulled this way and that in the grainy sky. A ghostly child clings to the coat of a man before a girl is found drowned in a loch nearby. A deceased father visits in a dream to foretell the death of his granddaughter. A headless woman, dressed in green, appears at the side of the road where she’d crashed many years earlier. All were there one minute, gone the next, told vividly through the words of locals as though these tragic events occurred just moments ago.
By blending shots of the landscape with conversations of paranormal experiences between Donald and the locals, McApine reiterates how memory is preserved not just through the act of storytelling, but also held in the landscape. This is beautifully synthesised in a story about a man walking home alone when a shadow looms in front of him, clear despite the darkness. As he moves the shadow moves with him, brushing past before disappearing into the hills. This is mirrored in the environment as we follow a shot of mist grazing up against the green hills, giving the lingering sense that the land remembers too.
Echoes are everywhere in this film, like the eerie similarity in different folk’s ghost sightings told in Gaelic and repeated in English. Their stories are either omens of tragic events to come, or reminders of harrowing events of the past, often told in hushed voice-overs that recall the soft rustle of dry grasses swishing in the breeze. And, like the mist that meanders among green peaks and troughs, we wind through a landscape peppered with folk tales and wildflowers, alongside Alison, Donald and his dog.