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Anchoress [DVD] [1998] [US Import]

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Product details

  • Actors: Natalie Morse, Gene Bervoets, Toyah Willcox, Pete Postlethwaite, Christopher Eccleston
  • Directors: Chris Newby
  • Writers: Judith Stanley-Smith, Christine Watkins
  • Producers: Ben Gibson, Catherine Vandeleene, Judith Stanley-Smith, Julie Baines, Paul Breuls
  • Format: Colour, DVD-Video, Letterboxed, Widescreen, PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Vanguard Cinema
  • DVD Release Date: 30 Oct 2001
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004REE0
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,611 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Peter Cook on 4 Mar 2010
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Anchoress" is based upon factual events documented in the early 14th century as the practice within the Christian church of the period of accepting into the church (literally) a woman - in this case a 14 year old farm girl who claims to have seen the virgin Mary. The so-called Anchoress's belief and dedication was such that she would be sealed within a stone cell annex behind the altar virtually as a martyr where she would live out her days as a perpetual communicator between the virgin Mary and the local populace who would inevitably revere her 'one with God' status. (Apparently this was a not uncommon event in Europe in the middle ages - sometimes with males but more commonly with virginal females filling the role.)

Natalie Morse as the ethereal title character is remarkable. She commands screen presence in every scene she's in, even with minimal dialogue. Equally brilliant is Christopher Eccleston in his finest film work as the parish priest.
Eccleston has never been as strong as he is here with his complex multi layered slightly sinister representative of the Christian church as subtle as it is charismatic. An unrecognisable Toyah Wilcox provides a powerhouse performance as the girls mother.

Beautifully photographed by lighting cameraman Michael Baudour, in fact one of the best shot British films in many years, the stark Belgian landscapes, dark moody skies and an overhanging air of oppression throughout. Virtually every individual shot is a work of art and worthy of framing. The choice to shoot entirely in black and white is the right one and the film is well served by this.

Most of the camera compositions are virtually still images with very little camera movement. Editing and sound design too is minimalist - all to great effect in the final film.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Byrd on 16 Aug 2010
Format: DVD
The previous reviewer has put into excellent words practically all the points I wished to convey. This film is continuously breathtaking, a rare mariage of style, spirit and technique. Only in one very short sequence did I feel the search for originality outstripped the meaning or spirit of the situation with a kind of gratuitous ingenuity, but even then the result was visually arresting.

It should perhaps be added that this is a film for serious lovers of the cinema as an art form (people in search of entertainment are likely to be bored or put off), but for anyone with a deep love of beautiful black and white photography and intelligent cinema will be amazed and uplifted.

The BFI is to be heartily congratulated for releasing this DVD (though I also agree that two of the short films provided as extras do seem entirely insignificant), and all those involved in creating the film itself deserve the highest praise and admiration.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 30 reviews
42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Gorgeous and thought-provoking 16 Mar 2000
By Carl McColman - Published on
Format: DVD
What a joy it is to see "Anchoress" coming out on DVD -- and at a consumer-friendly price, no less. This artsy/indie film should appeal to lovers of unusually and visually beautiful films, and it should appeal both to Pagans and to Christian mystics, as it explores issues of the soul dear to both groups. The central character, the Anchoress of Shere, is reminiscent of Julian of Norwich, a more orthodox though no less spiritual historical figure from the 14th century. The Anchoress of Shere enters the stern life of a female mystic/recluse, in part because she has visions of the Blessed Mother, in part to escape the unwanted advances of her landlord. Trouble begins to brew when her visions of the Mother do not match the rigid orthodoxy of the parish priest. This movie asks important questions about the relationship between authentic spiritual experience and the dogmatic "party line" of organized religion; it also explores the tension between heavenly-oriented and earthly-oriented spiritualities. It also has a few things to say about gender politics. But beyond the philosophical tension in the story, this film (shot in a softly-focussed black and white) is cinematographically gorgeous, a pure delight to look at -- a visual hymn to the mysterious beauty of both heaven and earth.
33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
A Profound depiction of medieval life 23 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on
There are not enough words to describe the utter beauty of Anchoress. The imagery and symbolism is intellectually and visually satsifying; one could watch this film over and over again without boredom. The silence, which so permeates this film, allows for a certain contemplation for the viewer; the dialogue is fabulous, and is not thrown around in an uncareful manner - it is placed where it is needed, conveying perfect and correct meaning. Overall, Anchoress offers the most expressive and possibly most accurate depiction of medieval life (even though us 21st century folks don't know what that would truthfully be) on film. I could not imagine Anchoress being in color - it would take away from the grainy feeling of the black and white, which is such a key part to the imagery I believe; the black and white even adds more to the medieval feel. Moreover, the story of Anchoress is equally important. Christine, the young anchoress (Natalie Morse) could teach us a lesson or two - she finds God in her food, in the dirt, in a beautiful (yet very primitive looking) Virgin statue, in a small cell, and underground; Christine discovers God. . . she does not allow God to be dogmatically pushed on her (as seen in her discussions with the Priest). I could watch Anchoress over and over. . . honestly. As a medieval history buff and as one interested in the lives and practices of medieval anchoresses, I highly recommend this film to others with the same interests. Also, to anyone who appreciates visually stunning film, Anchoress will fill your mind with awe.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
A visual feast for the senses and soul 15 Nov 2001
By A Customer - Published on
I was so enthralled by the beauty of this film that I had to go back and see it again the next night. I might add that I almost never see movies twice. Visually stunning black and white cinematography toned a deep blue-tone, lent a rich sense of dreamlike antiquity to the film. Shot on location in northern France, full of medieval icons and stone buildings, surrounded by peasant farms and fields the film touched on many local customs and lore : gypsies with houses in trees, a dark-tressed virgin mary-possibly an older connection to Ceres or an earth-mother goddess, early midwivery, and, perhaps most importantly the desire for a direct connection to God, which conflicts with the Church-as-middle-man role. The story was a deeply moving and inspiring tale of a pure desire to touch divinity.
16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Failry authentic medieval film 20 Sep 2005
By Stephen Balbach - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Newby's film is based on the true story of Christine Carpenter, who in the 14th century was renounced as dead to the living world by the church, and enclosed as an anchoress for the rest of her life in the wall of a village church in Shere in Surray. The inspiration for the film, according to screenwriter Judith Stanely-Smith, was a letter concerning Christine written by the Bishop of Winchester in 1324.

In the film Christine, a 14-year old illiterate peasant girl, finds herself drawn to a statue of the Virgin Mary. Meanwhile the village priest and "reeve" (Sheriff) are increasingly drawn to the beautiful Christine. The reeve proposed marriage to the girl, but Christine refuses the offer to the dismay of her mother, Pauline. Instead at the urging of a priest Christine becomes an anchoress so she can live next to the statue she so adores (and escape the possibility of marriage to the reeve). Her mother Pauline does not like her decision and plots against the priest. When Pauline, the village doctor and midwife, delivers the illegitimate stillborn child of the priests lover, the priest begins to plot against her. He accuses her of witchcraft and Pauline is killed by a mob. Meanwhile Christine has escaped from her cell through a tunnel and flees with her lover to Winchester to seek release from her vows from the Bishop there. The Bishop refuses and she "escapes" to run away with her love (although the ending scene is ambiguous if she really found freedom or a new kind of prison).

Historically, the film is very accurate and instructive to understanding on an emotional and personal level the idea of Christian sexual renunciation and asceticism in the Middle Ages. The film also portrays well the interactions between secular and ecclesiastical powers over the lives of peasants. The reeves French-like accent is very accurate as a Norman lord (although the bald head is questionable). The Bishops Mediteranian accent and Latin language is also accurate. This film will appeal to anyone with an interest in the Middle Ages and history.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By The Movie Guy - Published on
Format: DVD
The film is in black and white symbolic of the fact color photography wasn't available in Medieval times. Christine Carpenter (Natalie Morse) is entranced and obsessed with the Virgin Mary. To the dismay of her pagan herbalist mother (Brenda Bertin) and Reeve (Gene Bervoets) who had designs on her, she opts to become an anchoress, being walled up in confinement. Christine quickly becomes a celebrity offering her divine advice through a window of hope.

The priest (Christopher Eccleston) while initially happy becomes irate over Christine's disobedience and visions contrary to teachings. Christine sees Mary's hair as being braided as wheat dressed in a red robe, like an apple. There is a clash between the pagan and Christian worlds.

The film is riddled with symbolism and it is an art film. It is not Ingmar Bergman good, but if you like that type of film without the subtitles, check this one out.
It was not my cup of tea.
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