Ill Fares the Land

From Michael Powell to Bills Forsyth and Douglas, Scotland endures as the resonant repository for British cinematic mythology. An impressive addition to that tradition, this is a moving, factually-based investigation of the last gasps of life on remote St Kilda. Besieged by hunger, in-breeding, and a remarkable lack of contact with the outside world, the five families remaining in 1929 finally wrench themselves from their wild, beautiful island in a semi-voluntary act of evacuation to the mainland. The film both celebrates the close-knit community's daily life and examines why, in its reluctance to adapt, it could not but disappear. Neither pastoral idyll nor a 'we had it tough' catalogue of survival strategies, it's more a laconic account of the strengths and strictures of family and ritual - the Sabbath, funerals, a wedding, work and coming-of-age. Here, indeed, lie the connections with Bryden's script for Walter Hill's The Long Riders, and with his stylistic idol John Ford.

By: GA

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