Thursday, 8 December 2011

Unit 3: Environment - Review - Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man



Figure 1. The Wicker Man Poster Art

A conspiracy for the ages. The Wicker Man is shrouded in uncertainty only revealing its true nature moments before the credit roll. The locals of the isolated Scottish isle sell their beliefs so convincingly one almost considers Edward Woodward’s Sgt. Niel Howie to be the true prophet of heresy. Suspicion of the town only increases the further Howie descends with the entire film playing like a game of cat and mouse.

•Directed by: Robin Hardy
•Written by: Anthony Shaffer & David Pinner
•Cast: Edward Woodward as Sgt. Neil Howie, Britt Ekland as Willow, Diane Cilento as Miss Rose, Ingrid Pitt as Librarian, Christopher Lee as Lord Summerisle & Roy Boyd as Broome.
•Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery, Suspense & Classics
•Duration: 88 Minutes (aprox)




Figure 2. "A missing child is always trouble”

The film starts as one thing and then becomes something entirely different with a voyage overseas immediately causing one to reassess every situation. The ambiguity surrounding the location of little Rowan’s body is very much the epitome of this story with the locals sticking to their beliefs that the lost girl doesn’t exist. One is reminded specifically of a point in the film where Howie is directed to a grave yard which is completely devoid of Christian ritual; there he bumps into the most eerie of sights as reviewer Peter Bradshaw observes:

“…there is genuine fear in its nightmarish tableaux: the breast-feeding woman holding an egg in the ruined churchyard is like a detail from Hieronymus Bosch.” (Bradshaw: 2007)
One could attribute this visual alone with the scientific process of life contrasted with the chilling inevitability of death. The entire feeling is wrong with the woman almost smirking at Howie in this spiritual albeit un-homely locale. The very idea of stripping the church of its Christian identity leaves one unable to relate to its intention. This could be what terrified Sgt. Howie, Christian but unable to identify with something that he considered familiar, which is possibly why he felt the need to create his own cross for an unmarked grave.



Figure 3. "You are despicable little liars”

One could say that the most poignant features of the town are its very reference to sex and the refusal of Religious belief. With everything taken into account one could attribute the mere suggestion of sacrilege as an even bigger threat, for the biggest climax of the film is when the locals dress themselves with animal masks and begin to dance in ritualistic fashion. On the other hand one could say that Director Robin Hardy looked closely at the passage one takes as a child specifically with the use of maypoles & fancy dress - the rituals of child innocence, only to convey this message in the most unholy of ways as Reviewer Adam Smith observes:

“The pagan imagery, of hobby horses, maypoles, the "Green Man" pub and Mr. Punch, are all instantly recognisable as existing in our everyday lives, and particularly our childhoods , but Screenwriter Peter Schaffer's depiction of these elements as part of a living religion based upon fertility and sensuality, as opposed to the repression of Christianity, is the engine of the movie.” (Smith, 2002)
The town’s seemingly appalling nature is in itself the transformation of our homely beliefs that we grew up understanding and accepting. To consider these tropes of innocence getting tarnished creates an underline uncertainty, a broken taboo. One could even attribute the young maidens running around naked to situations when we as children would run around naked but with the innocence removed leaving only the feeble unholy lust. One could say it is therefore the films refusal of purity which makes it un-homely.



Figure 4. "I suspect murder, conspiracy to murder”

One could not help but attribute the demise of our poor Sgt. Howie to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with an artificial wicker man playing the personification of the sacrificial cross. One notes the term “Artificial” for this particular point as Sgt. Howie & the audience are lead to believe this town is following a false prophet, with the belief that their harvest will thrive the following season. The sacrifice itself is not one of respect but one of celebration which plays on ones interpretation of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, again converting purity to the unholy. Drawing from respected psychoanalyst Freud’s essay on the Uncanny one observes:

“As soon as something actually happens in our lives which seem to support the old, discarded beliefs, we get a feeling of the uncanny.” (Freud, 1919: 154)
One could argue that Director Robin Hardy distorted our perception of “the Crucifixion” to play on our Christian beliefs ultimately making them un-homely. The local’s loss of purity renders them tarnished and thus unholy. Sgt. Howie was the heretic’s sacrificial lamb of purity, which felt meaningless when one considers Jesus Christ’s sacrifice was to purge his people’s sins. Sgt. Howie was sacrificed for a harvest (food) which one struggles to attribute to the theme of death. Instead one cannot help but attribute Howies sacrifice for food as an act of gluttony – a deadly sin.

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List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Wicker Man Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-c0maP9wFEU0/TY-GV1BcAQI/AAAAAAAAATg/C31IjiT4gP4/s1600/600full-the-wicker-man-poster.jpg (Accessed on: 08/12/11)

Figure 2. A missing child is always trouble. (com) [Online image]. At: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-cwbejW1_8vE/TqrHr3izIeI/AAAAAAAAAgk/IuqPh5dPubs/s1600/Wicker+Man+2%252C+Rowan+Morrison+pic.jpg (Accessed on: 08/12/11)

Figure 3. You are despicable little liars. (com) [Online image]. At: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_4jv9_nniV8g/StNcQEJzlLI/AAAAAAAAE7U/73brSD86cE8/s400/orchards.jpg (Accessed on: 08/12/11)

Figure 4. I suspect murder, conspiracy to murder. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://www.electricsheepmagazine.co.uk/features/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/thewickerman_lordsummerisle.jpg (Accessed on: 08/12/11)

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Bibliography

Peter, Bradshaw. (2007) the Wicker Man Review. At: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/aug/24/horror (Accessed on: 08/12/11)

Smith, Adam. (2002) Empire Essay: The Wicker Man Review. At:
http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?DVDID=7892
(Accessed on: 08/12/11)

Sigmund, Freud. (1919) Essay on The Uncanny, Penguin Classics, 3rd Edition
(Accessed on: 08/12/11)

1 comment:

  1. "This could be what terrified Sgt. Howie, Christian but unable to identify with something that he considered familiar, which is possibly why he felt the need to create his own cross for an unmarked grave."

    "The town’s seemingly appalling nature is in itself the transformation of our homely beliefs that we grew up understanding and accepting. To consider these tropes of innocence getting tarnished creates an underline uncertainty, a broken taboo."

    Hey Stitch - again, another properly questing review, and the way you're cross-referencing the specifics of the film's imagery with the specifics of Freud's description of the uncanny is v. satisfying. The paragraphs above stand out particularly. Well done.

    ReplyDelete