In the summer of 1816 a coterie of writers and poets led by Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, were staying at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva. Kept indoors by the “incessant rain” of that “wet, ungenial summer” – brought on by a massive volcanic eruption thousands of miles away on the island of Sumbawa in southeast Asia – the group turned to reading fantastical stories, including the anthology of horror fiction Fantasmagoriana, and then devising their own tales. As a result, Mary Shelley produced what would become Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. A book often claimed to be the first science fiction novel, with elements from the Gothic and Romantic periods laced with references to John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, which was seen as a reaction to the Industrial Revolution.
Eleven years later, French mathematician Jacques Charles François Sturm and Swiss Physicist Daniel Collodon conducted an experiment to provide the first quantitative measurement of the speed of sound in water. The couple used two moored boats, separated by a measured distance, as transmit and receive platforms for the sounds of exploding gunpowder. The flash of the exploding gunpowder provided the visual starting cue for the timepiece, and the underwater explosion sound striking a bell provided the finish cue.
In this film Simon Roberts and sound artist Adam Byford draw upon these elements of artistic creation, human endeavor and of scientific exploration. They present the lake as a mysterious, esoteric entity, seen through mist, deliberately unsignposted. There are no locators of geography, scale or position. The film is a contemplation of the layered, sometimes secretive narratives, of beauty, romanticism and horror, which the lake has inspired.