[FILM REVIEW] Taylor Swift’s Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions reveals intimate side, production challenges during pandemic

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Taylor and her producers, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff, play their album in the same room together for the first time after producing Folklore from their own homes amid stay-at-home orders.

Taylor Swift’s album, Folklore, her first indie release, didn’t only explore uncharted territory for her music but also broke records by placing on the Rolling Stone top album chart for the most consecutive weeks in the chart’s history. About four months following the release of Folklore, it’s concert film- esque documentary came out on Disney+.

Right off the bat, the film captures the uniqueness of Swift’s composing experience: recording in her bedroom, virtually connecting with album collaborators, Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff. The opening clips reveal personal videos from the early stages of stay-at-home orders on the East Coast. She later dives into how music offered a sort of self-therapy while in social isolation. “This could have been a time when I absolutely lost my mind, but instead, you know, this album was like a real flotation device,” Swift says in one scene.

The film takes place across the property of the well-known Long Pond Studio in New York, filled with beautiful and expansive sites that contribute to the authenticity of the entire viewing experience. The majority of conversations between Swift and her co-producers occur outdoors, and the cinematography conveys the rawness of their exchanges. These unscripted conversations between every scene of recording tracks on Swift’s album provide the film’s most meaningful moments. Her description of the inspiration behind the individual songs combined with the heartfelt commentary from her co-producers Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff make for a truly unique scope into who Swift is as not only a musician but a human living through an unparalleled year.

This could have been a time when I absolutely lost my mind, but instead, you know, this album was like a real flotation device.”

— Taylor Swift

Some of the most riveting scenes include when Swift discusses the metaphors in the hit Mirrorball. “Every one of us has the ability to become a shapeshifter. What does that do to us?” she asks Aaron Dessner. She also expresses her gratitude for the many healthcare workers in America who face daily trauma due to the state of COVID-19 in America while describing Epiphany. Another compelling aspect of the film is that she reiterates throughout a thread of conversations that the album emerged directly from her isolation. “It’s a product of all this rumination on what we are as humans,” Swift says, referring to all her alone time over the past months that allowed her to become lost in thought.

Despite the film’s candid nature, it provides a driving message through not only Swift’s lyrical intelligence but also the charming ideas crafted through her conversations. The film leaves audiences with a sense of nostalgia and a warm ability to relate to Swift.

Because much of the film consists of the actual performances of all 17 tracks in Folklore, including a bonus track titled The Lakes, those who don’t already enjoy Swift’s music might not find the film particularly entertaining. Anyone seeking a dreamy blend of both music, beautiful visuals, and wistful commentary will enjoy the film.

Star rating: ★★★★★