Film Review: Arcadia

Director: Paul Wright

12A 19, 75m June (UK)

RATING: ★★★★☆

I’m a sucker for film essays that repurpose old archive footage, and that is exactly what BAFTA-winner Paul Wright’s Arcadia is. Scouring 100 years of British film archives and deploying footage non-chronologically, Wright constructs a surreal study of the British people’s shifting — and contradictory — relationship to the land. We start with bucolic 1930s footage of farms and fields, set to the (now-amusing) clipped narration of the newsreaders of the time. Then, the visuals slowly start to tip towards the more exotic, ritualistic, and harder-edged uses of the soil. Centuries-old pagan festivals, one of which seems to include village men dressing up as walruses, flash past us. Townsfolk ride pigs. Advanced farming techniques that see land segmented and tilled by giant machines, replace the rickety ploughs and hand-planted seeds we saw in earlier footage. A village gent fights…a kangaroo? A throbbing and woozy new score from Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp) plus folk music from the likes of Anne Briggs combines with this kaleidoscopic presentation of footage to create the effect of tumbling through time.

Film Review: Arcadia
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