Alchemy  begins with echoes of a drowned subterranean world. We observe three protagonists emerge from the depths of a black lake, into an entirely devastated landscape of charred trees. They negotiate their way through this hostile burnt world with the constant feeling of threat and unease. Within this, there are moments of respite and tenderness, a retreat from the chaos, as they embrace in dream-like vignettes, intimate poses that bring to mind both portraiture and classical historic statues. The performers go through a ritualistic transformation within the landscape, building to a climax, a metamorphosis, emerging energised with new life. The narrative navigates through various emotional and psychological states from claustrophobia, fear, solitude and grief, as the performers engage in a primitive, ritualistic re-emergence towards recognising balance, regrowth and rejuvenation. In the latter part of the film, there is a sense of discovery, of possibility, and rebirth as we see new life emerge from the black parched landscape to a place of hope, a new horizon. It is a complete antithesis of the chaos, horror and struggle at the beginning of the film. This is reenforced by the visuals shot by Oscar nominated cinematographer Robbie Ryan and the artist, which go from stark infra -red black and white to an emergence of colour and ending in full bloom. Likewise, the original score by Gyða Valtýsdóttir and soundscape by Daniel Goddard, take us through this evolution from the extremes of fear to joy.

Langan has spent years creating speculative fiction work that constructs experiences of what it may be like to live on a planet that is in the height of danger due to climate change. Her films including The Heart of a Tree (2020), The Floating World (2013) and Metamorphosis (2007), work through chaotic landscapes where the narrative contains this tension between harmony and strife. At this juncture in the story of planet earth, humanity finds itself at a pivotally volatile and uncertain moment. It seems that a drastic transformation is needed in the collective psyche of our species if we are to survive the situation we have created for ourselves and for the planet. Climate change is the greatest challenge that humans have ever confronted, with the intensification of extreme weather changes, melting ice, wild fires, extreme storms and desalination of oceans. Regarding the globalised effects of these issues, they resonate with all of us.

The Latin expression of Alchemy ‘solve et coagula’ is derived from ‘solve’, meaning to break down and separate, while ‘coagula’ describes the process of bringing elements back together (coagulating) into a new, higher form. In recent years, Langan’s work has integrated further expressions of emotional and psychological states through performance and dance. By exploring bodily encounters with the landscape, her work creates an environment that considers both connection and separation that is visible in her films Flight from the City (2015), The Rewilding (2022) and, Alchemy (2023).


Director: Clare Langan

Cinematography: Robbie Ryan, Clare Langan

Choreographer: Maria Nilsson Waller

Performers: Maria Nilsson Waller, Luke Murphy, Eilise Sullivan

Editing and Sound Design: Daniel Goddard

Original Score: Gyða Valtýsdóttir

Producer: Aideen O’Sullivan

Costume Designer: Tara Van Zyl

Camera Assistant: Neil Gahan

Production Assistant: Daithi Harrison

Drone: Michael McCarthy

Grade: Gary Curran Outer Limits

Postproduction: Outer Limits

Music Performer and Recorded by Gyða Valtýsdóttir

Music Mixed by Gyða Valtýsdóttir and Úlfur Hansson

Surround Sound Mix: Sinead Hegarty

Online Edit: Dominic Lord

Executive Producer: Edwina Forkin

Catering: Stace Gill

Locations: Padruig O'Sullivan

Thanks to:

Killarney National Park

Chloe Austin

Brian Langan

Funded by The Arts Council of Ireland

Copyright Clare Langan 2023