‘Once upon a time in the heart of the British countryside, there lived a fair maiden who, try as she would, could not fit into the land around her.’ Drawing on 100 years of footage from the British Film Institute and the BBC, Paul Wright’s film starts with experimental time-lapse images of roots growing slowly under the earth and of flowers breaking into blossom in close-up, before moving across into more conventional images of church spires, ploughed fields, and bucolic village life.
There is a kind of idyll of past British life being evoked here, and the suspense felt by the viewer revolves around the question of how long the idyll will be sustained by the filmmaker before moving into darker and more troubled waters.
The different moods of the film (wonder, hope, horror, and decay) swing backward and forwards the whole time, yet the lyrical impulse remains throughout the film, even when the imagery turns violent. Crucial to the success of this powerful documentary is the evocative quality of the soundtrack, which veers between haunting folk songs and the sophisticated choral melodies provided by composers Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp).
Growing up in a small coastal village on the East Neuk of Fife, Paul Wright has always had a passion to create. Starting with drawing and painting, he finally found the medium of film. Armed with a dodgy VHS camcorder, he’d venture alone onto the isolated beach and nearby forests to make strange little films that nobody ever saw about the texture of the sea and the light in the woods. The following years saw his passion for film intensify as he’d visit the big cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee on a pilgrimage to try to hunt down VHS copies of films that he didn’t always understand but felt a deep connection with. It was during this time that he was first introduced to filmmakers such as Werner Herzog, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Andrei Tarkovsky who opened his eyes to just what was possible in cinema. He studied film, starting in Glasgow and finishing at the NFTS in Beaconsfield. During this time, Wright’s short films were screened world-wide and received international acclaim and awards including winning Best Short Film at the BAFTAs and The Leopard of Tomorrow Award at Locarno Film Festival.