This is a joint showing with Poetrywiv at the Nottage Maritime Institute. Please note the starting time of 7pm. As well as a showing of the film, Mike Harwood, who ran a poetry workshop ‘Countryside and the Imagination’ will be introducing participants reading their poems. Also Ros Green (Director of the Essex Book Festival) who was in the Akenfield film as a child, will be talking about her experience. It promises to be a very varied and enjoyable evening.
The film is, of course, loosely based on a book by Ronald Blythe, which was a distillation of interviews with local people, published in 1969. It has been described as a ‘gritty work of hard scholarship, rooted in detailed statistical data, presenting a very realistic grounded understanding of the economic and social life of a village’. The film is a work of fiction, based on an 18-page story synopsis by Blythe. It has been described as a work of rural realism as Peter Hall, the director, used some of the techniques of social realism, such as using non-professional actors. Most of the filming was done at weekends, when the cast was available, and shooting took almost a year – following the changing seasons in the process. After making the film, most of them returned to their rural occupations. Hall himself was a Suffolk boy, brought up in Bury St Edmunds, and the film was made in the villages to the west of Wickham Market. He was influenced by Robert Bresson’s films of French rural life and one of the major challenges of the film was to re-create a rural economy based around horses, the famous Suffolk Punches.
The central character Tom (Garrow Shand) is a young man living alone in a cottage with his widowed mother (Peggy Cole) in the 1970s. The setting is within the few days surrounding the funeral of Tom’s grandfather, who was born and grew up in the village in the early 1900s, experienced much poverty and hard work, fought in the First World War (where he lost most of his comrades), returned, made a failed attempt to escape the village by walking to Newmarket for a job, took a wife in the village and lived in a tied cottage on the farmer’s estate for the rest of his life. His son, Tom’s father, was killed in the Second World War, and Tom has grown up hearing all sorts of stories from his grandfather. Everyone around him says what a good old boy his grandfather was, and remembers the old days, but all Tom can hear is the words of his grandfather ringing in his ears, and now in 1974 he is making his own plans to get away, with or without his girlfriend. There is striking use of music by Michael Tippett (Fantasia Concertante on a Theme of Corelli), but with the menace of poverty, entrapment and war behind the veil of rural beauty. Will Tom be defeated by the land and the hard work, just as his grandfather was? Shand plays all three generations, grandfather, father and son.
The film was well received by critics of the time and was described by some as a masterpiece (see below).
Click below for reviews and more information.