Week #36/52: Gone To Earth – “What A Queen Of Fools You Be”, Something Of A Return Wandering And A Landscape Set Free
Hmmm. Gone To Earth.
In some ways it is a caddish melodrama, with the untamed rural main female character marrying the local priest (the “good man”) but being lead astray by the almost moustache-curling-baddie wants and takings of the local squire.
However, it is much more than that and as you watch it you can feel it straining at its period restrictions re sexuality, desire, faithfulness and respectability.
(Sin, acceptance, redemption, retribution and repression may well also be appropriate words round about now.)
It is a non-populist / exploratory work presented in a populist framework – often something of a favourite way of presenting things around these parts – and there is just something, well, odd about it that is hard to quite put your finger on.
And it has a genuinely shocking, I expect particularly non-focus-grouped (!), non-populist ending that just left me, well, shocked.
(Also, if memory serves correctly, that shock was heightened by the film being very quickly over in terms of run time after the ending: in contrast to modern films where 5-10 minutes of credits rolling up the screen is not uncommon, here there are very few credits and therefore time at its tail end to reflect and take things in.)
And talking of that not quite being able to put your finger on such things, it made me think of the gentle but not necessarily gentling “other” view of the landscape to be found In The Dark Half, of which I said back when:
“There is a subtle sense that you are looking in on a magical otherly world. There are folkloric elements to the film but it’s not so much those which give the sense of a world with it’s own rules and even magic. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is but there’s a certain lush, soft beauty to the rundown estate and it’s nearby countryside in the film (which is good to say as a contrast to the often standard British realist cinema take on such things)… but in that lush beauty there is a sense of something else, something unsettling.”
In Gone To Earth, that otherlyness is less overtly dark and the possible poverty is presented more as a deeply rooted bucolic way of of life but…
…within its world (and it is most definitely its own world) the British landscape is also not presented in a realist manner, rather here it has a Wizard Of Oz-esque, Hollywood sheen of beauty, glamour and quiet surreality, which in part it is given by the vibrant colours of the Technicolor film process but it is something more than just that, something not quite so on the surface, that runs more deeply in the furroughs of the things…
And talking of most definitely their own worlds…
In some ways the air of not-quite-real-ness makes it seem like the forerunner to the more fairy tale side of the Czech New Wave (in particular Valerie And Her Week Of Wonders and possibly Malá Morská Víla / The Little Mermaid) and also to the style, character and imagery of a younger Kate Bush, of a free spirit cast on, upon and amongst the moors.
And talking of deeply in the furroughs of things…
I’ve seen it said about Kate Bush that in her work she could be seen as channelling something ancient, which is something that seems to also apply to the Powel and Pressburger film Gone To Earth, it seems to somehow delve and dig deeply amongst the land and related archetypes; this is a tail where faiths old and new are part of and/or mingle amongst folkloric beliefs and practises.
Hmmm. Writing about it all makes me want to wander back, watch and appreciate it once again.
Most definitely a film that would appreciate a good old considerate, respectful, modern day Bluray brush and scrub up (I may well be looking hopefully in the general direction of Criterion here).
Other pathways and wanderings around these parts:
“Other” visions of the landscape:
Day #21/365: In The Dark Half
Interrelated Powel and Pressburger intertwinings and a very particular Lionheart-ess:
Day #108/365: Let me grab your soul away – Kate Bush and darkly cinematic flickerings through the meadows, moors and mazes…
Further forerunners, signpostings, (Electric) Edenic wanderings and other non-populist sylvan-Sylvian-ic pop:
Day #326/365: Harp In Heaven, curious exoticisms, pathways and flickerings back through the days and years…