Standing with Stones [DVD]
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There are about 1,000 stone circles in the British Isles. If you include other megalithic monuments such as stone rows, long barrows, cairns, cists, standing stones and others, the number runs to tens of thousands. Yet most people can only name one. This DVD is an exploration beyond Stonehenge, a discovery of the wealth that is Megalithic Britain. More than two years in the making, this broadcast-standard film, written and presented by explorer and naturalist Rupert Soskin, takes you from the tip of Cornwall to the Scottish Isles on an unforgettable journey through the landscape of our ancient past. ON THE DVD: MAIN TITLE, CHAPTERS, 224 MINUTES OF EXTRAS: FULL LENGTH WRITER/DIRECTOR COMMENTARY - FILMED INTERVIEW WITH RUPERT SOSKIN AND MICHAEL BOTT - OUTTAKES - EXTRA FOOTAGE - ORIGINAL PILOT FILM - TRAILER - 'MAKING OF' SLIDE SHOW.
There are thousands of prehistoric sites around Britain, including nearly 1,000 stone circles, says Rupert Soskin at the start of his journey around these enigmatic monuments left by our ancestors. Even in the two-and-a-quarter hours of this stunning documentary he can only include a selection not just of the well-known sites but also many which are hidden away and far less known. The main film is sensibly divided into seven chapters: the West Country; Southern England; Wales; Ireland; the Isle of Man and Northern England; Scotland; and the Scottish Isles. Each of these is further subdivided into sections covering in total well over 100 individual circles, dolmens, standing stones, stone rows and burial mounds. It starts at Ballowall Barrow at Land s End and finishes at the Tomb of the Eagles in the Orkneys, but the excellent indexing means that it s possible to dip in at any point. Soskin s presentation of the monuments is constantly informative and fascinating, and his enthusiasm is catching. But the true stars of this DVD are the stones themselves. No photograph can capture the sheer majesty of the place, Soskin says about Callanish in the Hebrides, but Michael Bott s beautiful filming manages it. Most of the time Soskin simply presents the monuments in their geographical context, and lets them speak for themselves, without any theorising or speculation. Is it a meeting place? Is it a temple? Is it an astronomical calendar? Of Men-an-Tol, for instance, he mentions the folklore about it curing ills and aiding fertility, then says: People believe all sorts of things, but in reality and you ll hear it said a lot on this journey we just don t have a clue what it was for. When you think how some commentators might have approached this subject, you re grateful for such a level-headed approach. In only a couple of places does he speculate, making it quite clear that he is doing so rather than asserting something as fact . At Bryn Celli Ddu, a passage grave on Anglesey, he believes he has discovered that the carved stone pillar at the heart of the chamber is actually a petrified tree trunk and that some of the cuts on it were made when it was still wood. If he is right, this is a sensational discovery, but it is obvious scientific study is needed. He puts forward two theories about Stanton Drew, near Avebury, where an English Heritage magnetometer survey revealed that inside the circle were nine concentric rings of wooden posts a metre apart and each a metre across. Could this have been an artificial forest where hunters could demonstrate their skills to spectators looking down from the raised bank? Alternatively, could the posts have supported a floor, as at the Colosseum in Rome but millennia earlier? We can only wonder, he says. The 3D imaging reconstructions are kept to a minimum and are always relevant; similarly, the occasional music is atmospheric but never intrusive. Both are the work of director Michael Bott. In addition to the documentary itself there are nearly four hours of extras, including, amongst much else, a long interview with Soskin and Bott about the making of the film an eight-year project that involved 8,000 miles (12,870km) of driving and the inevitable out-takes. The package also comes with twelve 7x5in (18x13cm) postcards. Altogether a beautiful and professional piece of work, and extraordinary value for money. David V Barrett Fortean Times Verdict: Stunning study of standing stones a work of art. 9/10 --Fortean Times
... it is a triumph ... I wanted to watch the whole thing through again. It is so beautiful - the images keep coming back to me. --PH, Shipston-on-Stour
... put on the DVD that night, intending to watch about an hour, but my wife was so fascinated we watched the whole thing; it was excellent. --NR, Coventry
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Top Customer Reviews
The presenter is Rupert Soskin and he does a great job of guiding us around the sites, relating the folk-lore and history etc. Some of his ideas are speculative but always fairly mainstream; there are no "New Age" theories. Neither does he mention the scientific work done at ancient sites such as the Dragon Project, which is a shame. Although he does an excellent job, I felt it could have done with an additional presenter, perhaps someone with markedly different ideas to Rupert's own to facilitate dialog and spark a debate. His pronunciation of Welsh place-names is dreadful, alas, but that's a fairly minor point.
As the content is fairly mainstream I imagine that it will appeal to a broad range of people - academics, historians, archaeologists or anyone with a general interest in the ancient stones of Britain. New-Agers and dowsers will like it too but they might also like The Spirit of The Serpent - An exploration into Earth Energy [DVD] in which Rupert Soskin also appears.
The script would really have benefitted from the input of an archaeologist as it's too impressionistic, arbitrary in its selection of sites (no Durrington Walls!)and contains factual errors (e.g people didn't build structures before the Neolitithic period). Sites and periods also get jumbled together and there's little context. The DVD spans at least two and a half thousand years, but the profound social change, mirrored in burial practices and attendant monuments, is pretty much ignored in favour of some very woolly musings.
Julian Cope does this sort of thing much better and I find his approach - personal and idiosyncratic - to be more palatable.
Having always loved trailing around megalithic sites it's refreshing to listen to someone who is enthusiastic as I am.
What I liked most was the fact that he whizzed around the country at breakneck speed which for someone like myself (with the attention span of a gnat)was ideal.
There was enough information about each site but not too much that you could find yourself drifting off.
I mean the dvd is a couple of hours long and I did intend to watch half and then go back but I ended up riveted to the whole thing.
Nothing would have induced me to switch off and watch the rest at another time.
I liked the way he didn't focus too long on the well known sites but also featured a few little gems that I shall definitely add to my list.
I have only one wee complaint. And that is, he got to a point where he ended his journey watching an eclipse of the moon over the stones up in Scotland and I got quite emotional just thinking "This is what it's all about. This is why these beautiful stones are here. Ancient man was....eh???
Cut to Rupert off in his car tootling down some country lane..
Ah c'mon Rupes!!
You were meant to share this magical moment with us. You could've lingered a tad longer and made us hyperventilate with excitement at the majesty and mystery of it all.
Still it was a 5* experience and now I'm off to read the accompanying book.
Just the experience for an autumn night and a nice glass or two of red.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Although this series on standing stones around the British Isles is a few years old now it has been rerun on one of the obscure satellite channels. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mr J J Parker
The dvd was purchased as a gift, it looked like a good subject because our son is at uni; studying History and Archealogy.Published on 22 Feb. 2011 by Mr. M. R. Astbury
As the presenter describes, no one really knows. Archaelogists can only go by the finds.
Loved this DVD. Read more