Close to the lonely loch, Loch Treig, lives Ken Smith, a hermit of almost forty years and a keen documenter, having kept meticulous diaries and taken thousands of photos. Director Lizzie MacKenzie struck up a friendship with him after hearing stories from deer stalkers. That friendship brings warmth to The Hermit of Treig, as the older Ken accommodates and looks out for the younger Lizzie, at times turning the lens back on her. While he undoubtedly understands the appeal of preserving stories, his light-hearted and playful presence makes for quite the contrast; an affable loner.

Ken made headlines recently for having a stroke, his fascinating lifestyle coming up against the harsh reality of ageing. Seeing him now, acknowledging hallucinations of colourful wave-like zig zags since he was taken unwell, he cuts a vulnerable figure against a cold landscape, if not a lonely one. Mentally, he is where he wants to be. But against the sloping glen and among the fortress of trees, watching Ken is like watching an Attenborough nature documentary. He is an animal in the later stages of life, not as capable as he once was, in need of more support. At one point he forgets having shown Lizzie a rose the previous night, repeating himself, highlighting his mental frailty.

That delicacy is what makes The Hermit of Treig such a profound watch. The delicacy of Ken’s life, of how he lives in nature, of the circumstances which led him off-grid four decades ago. The film captures a lifetime through a relatively small snapshot of it, and in doing so puts much of life’s challenges into perspective.

The film feels like reading a diary, complete with tiny observations and grand thoughts on life, and by so keenly translating Ken’s life to the screen, The Hermit of Treig gets to the heart of this most unique man and way of living.



DIRECTOR: Lizzie MacKenzie

SYNOPSIS: After 40 years of solitude, a spirited elderly hermit opens his life as he tackles ill health, a declining memory, and questions whether he can live out his last years in the wilderness he calls home.