Posted on Leave a comment

Constructing The Wicker Man and Explorations of the Bright, Beautiful and Serene Anti-Horror of Summerisle from Back When: Wanderings 44/52

Constructing The Wicker Man (2005) is a collection of essays that explore The Wicker Man, edited by Jonathan Murray, Lesley Stevenson, Stephen Harper and Benjamin Franks and based around contributions to an academic conference on the film that took place at the University of Glasgow in 2003.

It was the first time that such an event had focused on The Wicker Man at a point when the film was still going through something of a period of growing critical and cult appreciation. It also forebears more recent academic conferences which focus on flipside of folklore related culture, including A Fiend in the Furrows at Queen’s University in 2014, Child Be Strange: A Symposium on Penda’s Fen at the BFI in 2017,  the various Alchemical Landscape related events at Cambridge University which began in 2015, the Centre for Contemporary Legend’s Folklore on Screen conference at Sheffield Hallam University in 2019, The Geographies of Folk Horror: from the Strange Rural to the Urban Wyrd conference at the Royal Geographic Society in 2019, Folk Horror in the 21st Century conference at Falmouth University in 2019 and the upcoming Contemporary Folk Horror in Film and Media Conference at Leeds Beckett University in 2020.

(I have written about those various events at A Year In The Country previously – see links below.)

The book is particularly rare and in terms of books I’ve sought out during the A Year In The Country wanderings that have been hard to find I would put it next to Brian Freemantle’s novelisation of the 1968 film The Touchables and Filming The Owl Service. Second hand copies of Constructing The Wicker Man do appear online from time to time but often there aren’t any to be found.

In 2006 there was a companion book to it published called The Quest for The Wicker Man that drew from the same conference and was edited by the same people which, while it is currently out of print, seems to have had a wider release and copies can still more frequently be found online and generally at a lower price than Constructing The Wicker Man.

Both books could also be seen as companions to the editions of Allan Brown’s more pop culture orientated exploration of the film Inside The Wicker Man.

There is a link below to an in-depth exploration and analysis of Constructing The Wicker Man at the Offscreen website – one of the few pieces of writing about it I can find. That article ends with a still from The Wicker Man captioned with “Bright, Beautiful and Serene: Anti-horror?”, which quite succinctly captures one of the intriguing and curious contradictions of folk horror and related work; the way that rural areas are often places of beauty, respite and so on – sometimes in the real world, sometimes in the films etc which have been labelled as folk horror – but how within such work this sense of the bucolic has an unsettled flipside.

The Wicker Man’s director and co-writer of the novelisation Robin Hardy also provides writing for both Constructing The Wicker Man and The Quest for The Wicker Man books; a short Foreword in Constructing…, where he describes the film’s now well known stilted and staggered release and slow accumulation towards cult and critical appreciation and a longer piece called The Genesis of The Wicker Man in The Quest… in which he discusses the inspirations and development of the film. Robin Hardy is also interviewed later in the book and Gary Carpenter, who was an arranger-orchestrator on the soundtrack, also contributes an article, all of which adds a nice extra touch of direct connection with those who worked on the film.

Curiously my copy of Quest For The Wicker Man is signed. It was bought as a used item and I’m not sure who it was signed by, as it was not mentioned by the seller. The signature is fairly abstract but I think that it begins with an R, so it may be Robin Hardy.





Elsewhere at A Year In The Country:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.