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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Requiem For A Village - Requiem For A Village [Powerhouse - 2022]

David Gladwell’s classic twisted slice of folkish country life was first released in cinemas in 1975. Famous for his work as an editor (Gladwell worked on If.. and Oh Lucky Man for Lindsay Anderson) Gladwell directed several underappreciated gems including Requiem for a Village, Memoirs of a Survivor and the 1965 short 28B Camden Street, the last of which is included here alongside several other of Gladwell’s short films. 

On the surface Requiem for a Village may seem like a bucolic tale of rural life. The general narrative, such as it is, follows an elderly gentleman who cycles from his council estate home into the countryside to tend to a small village graveyard. As he cycles, the film highlights the changes he experiences on his journey from the busy motorways and housing estates that are associated with modern urban living to the serenely beautiful images of the countryside. The juxtaposition of the new and old world is very important as we see aspects of that new world creeping into the old with images of earth-moving machines and tractors impacting upon the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and the old ways. In order to highlight this our old friend the gardener, is seen using his shears to cut the grass around the gravestones, a task that is never ending to him, but could be completed quickly with the use of modern machinery. Requiem for a Village is all about the conflict that exists between the folkloric rurality and artisanal aspects of traditions that exists in the countryside and the new modern world of soulless big business and its harsh new traditions. What sounds like it could be a yearning for a simpler life, takes a brutal, terrifying twist as various horrific elements come into play as the urban starts to impact even further on the rural with shocking results. However, it is the way in which the rural world responds to modern urban society’s intrusion on its rural idyl that surprises and shocks the viewer. I don’t want to go into any greater detail but watch out for the motorcycle gang who cause havoc in the small village and the way in which the village fights back.

Requiem for a Village is a difficult film to pigeonhole, it features aspects of a host of different genres but never seems to settle on one, it’s part environmental drama, part rural docudrama and part horror movie. It is, however, a well-made, deeply affecting slice of cinematic genius from one of Britain’s great underappreciated directors.

The film is already available on a very fine DVD/ Blu-ray in the UK from the BFI, however, Powerhouse have chosen to release it to the American market. Their disc features a lovely Hi-def remaster of the original movie alongside two absolutely fascinating audio commentaries with director Gladwell and film historian Sam Dunn discussing the movie, but also Gladwell’s life in film. On top of that the disc features a number of Gladwell’s short films as briefly mentioned earlier. The whole set is rounded out with an image gallery of Gladwell’s paintings and a booklet featuring essays from Ben Nicholson and Adam Scovell. For fans of the film who already own the BFI disc, it is worth double dipping to get hold of the audio commentaries and the extra short films that are not a part of that release. 

 

Overall, this is a wonderful release for one of the finest underappreciated gems British cinema has to offer. It’s an amazing piece of work that highlights the brutality of man and the impact it has upon both rural and urban societies. It’s a downbeat masterpiece that is very British and I am very interested to see how the film is received by American audiences.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Darren Charles
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