The Arthurian legend is swirled in retelling – what do you expect from a story that started in the sixth century? The new short Gwenevere from Philip Reeve sprouts and blooms with natural magic in a gap in the orginal legend.
The writer of Mortal Engines, which was turned into an earth-churning epic by Peter Jackson, is behind the camera with his own story, and very ably assisted by DOP, wife Sarah Reeve. Gwenevere could be seen as a stand-alone tale, and may be more intriguing for it. But even a passing knowledge of what went down over, under and about the Round Table might be good, too, so well does the story meld with the myth.
Stripped of her queenly accoutrements, Gwenevere is walking to Amesbury as penintence for her adultory with Lancelot. On the way, they roam into the Wild Woods, where an evil Knight is doing away those who cross him.
Gwenevere (Laura Frances-Martin) wears her supposed shame with no regret and a dignity which belies the youthful romance she enjoyed with Lancelot. She is accompanied by maid Laudine (the wonderfully amusing Joanna Neary), and young Knight Ruan (Johnny Hibbs). (And if you’re eagle-eyed, you might even spot an Oscar-winner in the cast.)
Inspired by Dartmoor – and a love of John Boorman’s Excalibur – nature shines in the film, offering an otherworldliness to the natural environment. The costumes by Jaine Fenn are a feat of elegance, and the music by Brian Mitchell creates a sense of uncanny authenticy.
The shots and editing also stand out. Philip is well known for spinning a yarn, and he even cut his Arthurian teeth in a hit book series of Here Lies Arthur novels. And it’s the combo of storytelling chomps and visual depth – Sarah is a photographer – that allows Gwenevere to not only flow, but point to a rich world pre, post as well as during the events of the story.
The screening was part of a fundraising event at Torquay Museum, hosted by the English Riviera Film Festival. Philip said he likes the way light gleams on metal in wild landscapes. And Gwenevere certainly shines in the landscape of Aurthurian legend.
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