Victorian England: Moving Pictures In Colour

This is one of my favourite finds online. Film images taken in the late 1800s in places around England. Street Parades, funfairs, seaside Towns, as well as shopping districts and markets, public transport, and busy traffic. It also features the many different social classes of the time, from workers to wealthy landowners and dignitaries.

The original 9-minute film has been carefully enhanced for video, providing some amazing detail, and also colourised for full effect.

A Netflix Error

I decided to watch a film on Netflix to take my mind off of feeling ill. It is a new version of ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’. I have read that book, watched the 1930 film adaptation, and the later 1979 remake. This new version is a German language film, starrring mainly German actors. I settled down to watch it one afternoon, only to be greatly surprised that it was dubbed into English.

The story is not the same as in the book, far from it. But what we do get is a loosely-based version that delivers a powerful anti-war film with some outstanding special effects and cinematography. I stuck with it, but I was left feeling short-changed that it was not shown in the original language.

Looking online, I read that Netflix shows this film in German by default, with English subtitles. So I have no idea why I was shown a dubbed version. I rarely use Netflix, so I suspect I missed a ‘click’ on something.

Maybe I will watch it again, and be more careful before pressing ‘Play’.

London: England’s Megacity.

Thanks to my friend Antony who sent me a link, I was able to watch this great film about London, from Roman times to the modern day. It is short, at only 14 minutes, and is incredibly well-made. Using contemporary photos and video, and including some wonderful high-definition aerial footage, it manages to educate viewers and celebrate London in every way without taking up too much of your valuable time.

If you have never visited the city of my birth, I am sure you will find this film interesting and illuminating. If like me, you are a Londoner, it might make you love your city even more.

Film Review: Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)

***No ending spoilers***

This is a British independent film, written and directed by Thomas Clay. It is set in 17th Century England just after the civil war, and stars two of Britain’s finest actors, Maxine Peake, and Charles Dance. With my interest in the period, and having seen the excellent casting, I was excited to be able to watch this free on TV, courtesy of Channel 4.

The scene is rural Shropshire, the year 1657. Cromwell rules in England, and the Puritans enforce religious observance. They are against any other religious beliefs, and do not agree with revelry, drunkenness, or excessive celebrations. Some ordinary people opposed the Puritan restrictions. They embraced ideas about female equality, free love, and asserted that there was no heaven or hell, only earthly life. To the Puritans, they were heretics and blasphemers.

Fanny Lye is married to Captain John Lye, a man who served with distinction in the Parliamentary Army and returned home to buy a farm and land in the county. Despite her poor background and lowly upbringing, he married Fanny, giving her security as his wife, and also a son, Arthur. But he is a hard man, and a strict Puritan. He beats both Fanny and Arthur for the slightest reason, and regards her to be his property.

Returning from church one Sunday, the family is surprised to find two strangers in their house. They had arrived naked, and stolen clothes to wear. The young man claims that he and his wife were robbed on the road to Salisbury, and asks to stay until they are able to continue their journey. He also says he served in Cromwell’s regiment in the war, so Captain Lye takes pity on him.

But when men arrive at the farm looking for two heretics who are wanted for fornication and religious crimes, the young man takes Arthur hostage, threatening to kill him if they are betrayed. The men are the local constable, the High Sheriff of Shropshire, and his assistant. The Sheriff holds a warrant to arrest and execute heretics, and anyone harbouring them. But Captain Lye refuses him entry, claiming to have not seen any strangers.

After this incident, the film takes a darker turn. The young couple stay on at the farmhouse, and the atmosphere changes to one of great tension. Afraid that they will kill his wife and son, the enraged captain tries to overpower them, but is injured and securely tied up. He is then forced to listen as his wife is seduced by the teachings of the new religion, and then made to watch while she makes love with both the man and woman at the same time.

He bides his time to take his revenge, but nothing works out as we expect it to.

I really enjoyed this film. The atmosphere of repressive 17th Century England is second to none. Set design and scenery is completely convincing, as is every member of the small cast, especially Maxine Peake on brilliant form. Yes, it has one sex scene, and some sudden and brutal violence. But it is all in context, and no worse that you would see on any modern TV drama.

Yet another ‘small’ film that shows there is more to see than the big blockbusters that are so popular.

Here is a trailer.

Film Review: Brightburn (2019)

**No plot spoilers.**

This film was shown on TV over the Halloween period. I had never heard of it, but recorded it on the PVR.

The action begins in a remote farmhouse in the small community of Brightburn, Kansas. A couple is in bed one night when something like an earthquake shakes their house, and they see a bright red light out in the woods.

Then we have moved on. They have a baby, a small boy. They are blissfully happy, and enjoying the rural life in the American Mid-West. As the boy grows, it becomes apparent that he is exceptionally clever, much to the delight of his parents. (Elizabeth Banks, and David Denman)

But Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) is not popular at school, and becomes something of a loner. He is occasionally bullied, and not really accepted by his peers. Once he reaches puberty, things start to go badly wrong. Chickens are killed, Brandon begins to sleepwalk and hear voices, and the boy also discovers something hidden in the barn that will have a devastating effect on all of their lives.

The film then starts to turn into a horror film, (as advertised) and we see that young Brandon has some very unusual powers. These include super-strength, being able to move at lightning speed, and also being impervious to cuts, bruises, or injury.

Are you thinking what I was thinking? Superboy, Superman as a child. Raised by kindly parents who are devoted to him, and determined to keep his secret.

That is definitely the inspiration for this film, until it takes a very dark turn. This Superboy is actually Superbad, and it is not that long until we discover just how bad he is.

Despite having some of the expected ‘jump-scares’, this is a really enjoyable film. It takes a familiar story, and turns it on its head, blending sci-fi with horror to great effect. Many of the set-pieces are very well done indeed, and the cast take it all very seriously throughout. One of those ‘small films’ that delivers more than so many blockbusters.

And if you do watch it, stay right to the end, and during the credits too.

The ending is great!

Here’s a trailer.

Film Review: The Nightingale (2018)

I watched this Australian film recently on television, attracted by some great reviews, and the fact that it had won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

(Although I will avoid plot spoilers, I have to state from the outset that this film contains unsettling images of rape, racism, and extreme violence.)

The year is 1825, and Britain rules Australia as a colony. The Army enforces that rule with an iron hand, treating the Aboriginal people appallingly, and using convicts as servants and labourers. One such convict is the Irish waitress, Clare. She is the Nightingale of the title, as her singing voice is admired by the soldiers, especially the officer, Hawkins. He also lusts after her, and uses his power over her to keep her captive even though she is married, and has a baby.

Hawkins is supposed to be sending a letter recommending that Clare and her husband are freed, but he refuses to do so. When she challenges him about that, he rapes her. Her husband discovers the assault and confronts Hawkins and his sergeant, resulting in a fight. This is witnessed by a visiting Colonel, who tells Hawkins afterwards that he is unsuitable for promotion. Enraged, Hawkins resolves to travel to Launceston, to plead his case in person with the area commander. He orders his sergeant to accompany him, along with a junior officer, Ensign Jago, and three civilians, including a small boy.

But before departing, Hawkins resolves to settle things with Clare and her husband. Holding them at gunpoint assisted by Jago and his sergeant, he rapes Clare in front of her husband Aiden, then commands the sergeant to do the same. All the while her baby girl is screaming, and Aiden is beside himself with rage. So Hawkins shoots her husband, then tells Jago to keep the baby quiet. He throws the baby across the room, killing it as it hits the wall. Then he is told to finish off Clare, and hits her with the butt of a musket. Thinking they are all dead, the soldiers depart for Launceston.

However, Clare survives, and she enlists the help of a young aboriginal tracker, Billy, to follow the men to get revenge for her family.

What follows is an arduous trek across country, during which Clare finds a new respect for her guide and his culture. On the way, they encounter shocking treatment of Aboriginals by white overseers, and have to learn to work together against the terrain and elements to survive. Clare also eventually catches up with the soldiers, relying on her guide to help protect her from them.

If you can get past the often distressing scenes, this is a powerful film in every respect. Casting is perfect, with outstanding performances by all the leads, direction is flawless, and the atmosphere and period of the early 19th century is completely convincing. The cinematography on the rugged landscape of Tasmania is wonderful, and it has much to say about racism, colonialism, and the dark side of the British Empire.

I thought it was excellent, and it will stay in my mind for a very long time.

Here is the official trailer.