“The Moon and the Sledgehammer is a 1971 documentary film directed by Philip Trevelayn that shows a snapshot of a family (a father, two sons and two daughters) who live in an isolated woodland English house.”
“Their lives and ways of living have a sense of drawing from the past while living in the present; water is drawn by bucket from a well, if there is any mains electricity it is not to be seen, they run and hand build old steam engines, the men dress like working class labourers from earlier in the 20th century (all suit jackets and hats for hard manual and engineering work) and the family play hand-pumped organs and pianos out in the open.
This way of life does not appear to have come about in any modern dropping off the grid, overly conscious manner but rather to have happened or continued to happen naturally over the years.”
“The only time the film shows them leaving their own land and home is during a police-escorted trip down country lanes on a black-smoke puffing steam engine amongst the Morris Minor etc. cars of the period.”
“In part, it is a fitting travelling companion with the 1974 film Akenfield, which is more a recreated/partially dramatised but based on the stories of rural living example of filmmaking (it draws from Ronald Blythe’s oral history 1969 book Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village) than documentary representation but which also seems to represent some kind of earlier 1970s interest in, and attempt to, capture or recapture a disappearing world and pastoral idyll.”
“However, The Moon and the Sledgehammer is possibly nearer to Ben Rivers’ Two Years at Sea film from 2011, which focuses on the life of a man who lives alone in an isolated rural environment, in that it is a picturesque but also unadorned document of lives that have stepped to one side of normal life, with both being filmmaking which records and presents its subjects lives largely without narration.”
“The Moon and the Sledgehammer, along with Two Years at Sea is connected to a small genre of British filmmaking that is in part landscape/pastoral based documentary but which to varying degrees is non-conventional and/or may include elements of art or expressive film.”
“Along with which, we could include Gideon Koppel’s 2008 film Sleep Furiously.
This film is a view of a small village community that is slowly fading away as the population and local amenities decline. Parts of it are nearer to stills than film; contemplative views of the landscape, sometimes time-lapsed, sometimes with just one tiny figure or vehicle traversing the land.”
“It shares a sense of an almost painterly or photographer’s eye for such things with the 2009 film General Orders No. 9 and reminds me of art-photography views of the landscape such as Paul Hill’s Dark Peak, White Peak photography book from 1990; work which combines that just-mentioned expressive view alongside a documentary recording of the landscape.”
“In contrast to General Orders No. 9, Sleep Furiously is not an overtly otherly view of the countryside and pastoralism but it is more than just a straight documentary in some manner which is hard to define; there is an understated gentle magic to it.
And gentle is an apposite word as in many ways this is a gentle film; gently soporific and largely gently soundtracked, a gentle possibly muted visual colour palette and gently visualised.”
Online images to accompany Chapter 48 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:
Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.