A film by Chris Newby
Festival International du Film Cannes 1993 'Un Certain Regard' Official Selection
Christopher Eccleston, Pete Postlethwaite and Toyah Wilcox star in this sensual tale of religious conflict, in which a young girl's transcendental vision threatens to upset the foundations of her community.
Inspired by records of the real Anchoress of Shere (near Guildford, Surrey), who was voluntarily walled up in a tiny cell adjoining a church, Anchoress vividly evokes life in a remote medieval village and explores the gulf between patriarchal power and female rebellion.
After claiming to be in direct contact with the Virgin Mary, 14-year-old Christine (Natalie Morse) takes the advice of her local priest (Christopher Eccleston) and becomes an anchoress.
Over the protestations of her parents, she devotes her life to prayer, surviving on charitable food donations while dispensing advice to pilgrims. Becoming an anchoress was a form of voluntary martyrdom, the sealing-up ceremony having a deliberately funereal feel, as though the subject had already died – which, in a sense, she had, at least from the outside world’s perspective.
Featuring exquisite cinematography by Michel Baudour, the film has been re-mastered for this release from the original negative under the supervision of its director, Chris Newby (Madagascar Skin).
• The Old Man of the Sea (1989, 21 mins) - Newby's short film on the ancient relationship between man, nature and the supernatural.
• Flicker (2001, 4 mins) - Newby's study of the Guy Fawkes Night celebrations at Lewes
• Stromboli (1998, 11 mins) - Newby's portrait of the Aeolian island known for its violent volcanic eruptions
• Illustrated booklet
Release date: 22 June 2009
RRP: £19.99 / cat. no. BFIVD788 / cert 12
UK / 1993 / black and white / English / optional hard-of-hearing subtitles /
104 mins + 36 mins extra material / DVD-9 / Ratio 16:9
Sadly, this is a DVD-only release - I was one of the very few people who caught (in my case premiered) the 35mm version back in 1993, and it's got some of the most ravishingly fine-grained black-and-white cinematography of any film made in the last few decades. But it's a niche-market title with a vengeance, so I can understand why a Blu-ray was ruled out of consideration.
This one should be a really fascinating rediscovery (or discovery as far as most people are concerned) - a recognisably British film whose aesthetic sensibility is far closer to someone like Walerian Borowczyk (especially Blanche) than any of Newby's fellow countrymen. Here's my Screenonline piece to give some more background.