Boy, was this one a hard one to find. Deseret is a documentary so obscure nowadays that it doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page. Thankfully, good ol’ IMDb has this one covered, and it’s thanks to the individual forum for this film that I was able to locate a copy. Thanks to those involved, and hopefully it’ll stay up long enough for my fellow 1001 bloggers to make their journeys that much easier.
James Benning’s immortal documentary walks us through the storied history of Utah, through a simple construction of static shots of landscapes, both natural and modern, backdropped by a series of narrations recounting New York Times articles and stories about the history of the state. It starts off in black and white, but transitions to color at the turn of the century of the narrative stories. The film looks the antithesis of Gone With the Wind; it is a modern film that looks like it was made in the 1950s. I’m not quite sure if I should find fault with the film because of this; I can tell it is not just the copy of the film I viewed, as traces of filmic shooting and the shape of the lens still remain in the finished print. I can say this for the film; it is superbly edited. Each shot lingers as long as it needs to, and the narration often dictates how long a shot exists, as shots are matched to individual sentences of the narration.
Having said all of this, I found the film to be, at times, both very meditative and very boring, depending on my mindset. This will be a film that tests you, for certain. If you do decide to delve into this one, you must do so with the mindset that the film requires; if not, you will likely grow weary of the film very quickly. It is still otherwise a very beautiful documentary, albeit one with a very unusual structure.
Arbitrary Rating: 6/10