Throughout GWEN, you feel all cast members are beset by an unknown burden. The British produced gothic drama, seemingly captures you in an omnipotent nightmare. The feeling of being trapped in some supernatural beings will, some supernatural omniscient is all consuming. William McGregors film feels sometimes akin to an M R James ghost story. The body and the being are caught in a mesh of spectral control. You cant see its face fully. Taste its breath readily. Nor can you escape its icy cold probe but you know something is there.

Snowdonia, in the bleaker end of the 19th century. Gwen (Eleanor Worthington-Cox in a slowly simmer role) has to contend with a sick mother (Maxine Peak looking drawn and monstrous) and a society on the very precipice of great seismic changes. From cholera and religious fervour to suspected witch craft and fears of things yet unknown and treated in the older ways.

As GWEN played out, it became apparent to me that the power of such a simple film is in the complete package. Yes visually it is photographed with simple, effective use of frame (depth of field mixed with empty sides), light (drained and bleached) and pacing (tight). However, if you are a film student, film fan or horror aficionado, then look deeper.  From the starkness of the surrounds, hauntingly captured, much like the stunning THE WITCH to how it is mirroring of emotion state by the empty interiors is sheer delight. From the harsh, white noise to the harsh vocal engagements. Brash follows brash. Frame of desolation, finds frame of isolation. Some have talked of the drama of the piece, heightened by this, frankly, emotionally crippling combination of sound and fury, sparseness and auster space. If you are left both perplexed and intrigued by the world you are engaged within, then this is what should be. Take away from it the power of a piece that wants to ask questions and not give us easy answers. It is also a piece that should be taught and written about by people with much more to say than me…

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