Reflections on the Two Living Humans I’ve Seen in an Equal Number of Months at Sea

The watching of Logistics is a lonely practice. It’s an 857 hour movie that’s mostly just a locked down shot of part of a boat, so naturally not many people want to come over for movie night. Logistics is also nearly entirely devoid of people. It took almost 350 hours to spot my first person in a sea of shifting shipping containers. 

Then there’s covid. As this container ship sails, so do we all through waves of lockdowns, variants, and a tidal uncertainty. Seeing other people at all has felt like ships passing in the night. This has made, at least for me, every encounter a personal contact—including strangers on a screen. 

The first persons to pop up in Logistics are all only ever implied. There are cars that presumably have drivers, cranes and forklifts that must have operators, and unseen hands who load and unload these products once they reach their destinations. Logistics is a film driven by the living ghosts that it pushes outside the frame. 

Occasionally, a body will aparate and accrete a physical form. The first of these solid ghosts was one of our implied presences. 

There are countless lifts and cranes in Logistics. From our vantage point, they scurry about like automata; fully embodied of their own agency. One such lift was not a life of its own, but a device operated by a human person. 

This, to the best of my viewership, is the first person to appear in Logistics. This crane operator slides back and forth with the crane. Occasionally looking about—perhaps to ensure the accuracy of their work—but also oblivious of the recording. This moment in the crane operator’s life ebbs and flows to the tide of labor. 

The next, and perhaps last, person to appear in this film is a ship hand. This constitutes the only jump scare in the 857 hour runtime of Logistics. Some water splashes on the window that houses our camera and then, without warning, someone steps in front of the camera. 

They either do not see the camera or, like our crane operator, they do not care. Their sudden appearance is a system shock. Hundreds of hours of sea and visual silence is broken by a ship hand doing their duties and washing down the ship. 

Interestingly, and we’ll get to this next week, but this ship hand should get a cinematography or effects credit on Logistics. Their spraying of water onto the window that houses our camera constitutes the only in-frame effect seen in the entire runtime. Water distorts the sea as it drips down the lens. Singular droplets overtaking literal oceans. 

I don’t know the names of these workers. I don’t know where they hail from, what languages they speak, or what life circumstances pulled them into working these jobs that chanced them onto this ship. This is simultaneously incredibly intimate, bordering on voyeuristic, and an abject encounter with alienation. 

Logistics situates all things as shipping infrastructure. Everything is in service to the movement of this pedometer from Bao’an to Stockholm. Even the people, present, implied, ghosts, are accessories in the transit of an electronic accessory. 

These workers will never know the odd impact they’ve had in my life. The accidental solidarity that our asynchronous encounter inspires in me, but so goes many of the encounters that touch our lives. 

Even though the enormity of despair that is Logistics, we can touch hope. In passing glances, songs passed down through time, tales of battles won and lost, we spark potentialities across seas of water, time, and despair. 

Hold fast the helm, we shall see this sailing through. 

—Cinecartographer Darrow