Monday, 21 September 2015

Discovering Penda's Fen

I'm listening to Current 93's Thunder Perfect Mind album as I compose this post and it seems an appropriate accompaniment... Following a screening of Baal back in June, I explored an earlier Alan Clarke television production, the 1974 film Penda's Fen, a film I’ve wanted to see for a while now after reading enthusiastic eulogies from the blogosphere and a warm mention of the film in the pages of Rob Young’s British folk music book Electric Eden. One initial screening precludes me from saying anything profound about this very mysterious film save to say it's worth suffering thru the lo-fi VHS-transferred copy currently up on youtube. Ostensibly, a rural drama about a bookish teenager who experiences a number of personal and spiritual awakenings regarding his parentage, religion and sexuality, the film is steeped in arcane symbolism and metaphor, the pastoral landscape of Worcestershire a continuum of Britain’s mystical, pagan past driven underground by Christianity. The film is remarkable too for its unexpected supernatural touches (which I won’t spoil), poetic dialogue and its study of Elgar’s 1900 work The Dream of Gerontius. The film would make a terrific Flipside title, but apparently the BBC are demanding a king’s ransom to license the film. For now, that youtube upload


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