Screenplay & Directed by Gary Andrews
Produced by Joy Andrews, David Smith & Julianne Honey-Mennal
Based on the original stage production by The Archway Theatre Young Adults Group
Songs & music by Damh the Bard
Released in the UK: 1st May 2012
Running Time – 85 minutes
I’ll start by saying just because this is a Pagan-orientated film you don’t have to be a Pagan to appreciate it. Also, just because this is a Pagan film, it doesn’t mean that a police officer is going to be called to a case on a remote island and summarily meet his maker in a large wooden sacrificial structure! (Mr Cage & Mr LaBute, you should be ashamed!)
This is an independent British film crafted from the music of Damh the Bard, a musician who weaves the tales of the Old Ones into his songs, each one still having meaning today. The story stems from a Youth Theatre production, taking some of Damh’s works and transforming them into a piece about how people can become lost along the path of life, and how to get back to what has been long forgotten, but as the tag line says – “The Old Ones have not abandoned you.”
Following the first stage show came a second, with an adult cast, and then on April 30th, 2011, shooting commenced on the film interpretation. When I asked Director Gary Andrews what made him take the leap of faith to transform the project from stage to screen, he told me:
“I have made films since I was a kid, and the day job is an animation director and storyboard artist so it’s in my blood anyway. Basically, it just wouldn’t go away. Having done 2 stage versions the story still wanted to be told and in my mind I could see all the things we could only suggest on stage. So I decided to take the plunge and self-financed the movie. We just wanted more people to see it.”
The story unfolds like this: Annie, Esther and George, 3 people from totally different backgrounds, all facing issues and challenges in their present time of life, find themselves drawn to an ancient woodland on October 31st. They are unaware that their meeting is no accident, and they have been brought together by the Gods & Goddesses of Albion, the old name for Britain. Our three mortals then learn of secrets that have been lost to most of modern man, each being guided along a different path of awakening, and soon realise that nothing will be the same again!
The Mortals – Cast members from left to right: Emma Doubleday as Esther, Ella Sowton as Annie, James Abbot as George
I don’t want to go into too much detail about the film’s story, as I want as many people as possible to get their own chance to see & appreciate it. However, my own views on this film are that it entertains as much with its music as it does its story. Damh has created the songs with such passion, and the cast certainly carry that through in their performances. Damh himself begins the tale by playing Pagan Ways, shot in glorious natural surroundings, which gives you a flavour of what will come. He also brings the story full circle with a rousing rendition of the title track, Spirit of Albion.
The rest of the songs are by the cast members, as a vehicle to transport us along the way, and to make us think about the world we live in, and the things we value, and all that we have left behind. The film also tackles such various themes as love, death, war, animal testing, drug addiction and ultimately hope. When you consider that the majority of the actors playing the “mortals” don’t have much previous screen experience, you can tell they have good future ahead as they take hold of their characters and really make them their own! The Gods & Goddesses alike are each responsible for taking the story and the mortals down a different path, to learn about the old ways and secrets about themselves. All this whilst explaining their part within the Pantheon. This is done with a lot of love and it’s clearly conveyed that everyone was enjoying themselves making this film. It’s a true ensemble piece, with no one role more important than another, which has translated clearly from its stage origins. Technically the film has been crafted well too, especially the race around the country for the opening sequence!
Don’t look for it to be a HD, action-packed blockbuster; this isn’t Thor. This is a film that demands to be watched and appreciated, but also thought about. What do our lives mean in this 24/7 neon-lit world of material lust and expectation? Isn’t it time we just stopped to look around at the world we live in, just for a moment, and see how much wonder there is around us, regardless of our faith? I knew it would speak to me, but the chances are it might to you, too.
The film is available directly from http://www.thespiritofalbionthemovie.com/shop and along with the film, you also get two sets of commentary, 30 minute “Making of” and the Outtakes reel!