Film summons ghosts of the past

Andrew Kotting Edith film SUS-160914-110201001
Andrew Kotting Edith film SUS-160914-110201001

What was intended to be a short film for the Root 1066 Festival evolved into a full length BFI candidate and transcendental piece of performance art.

At the helm Andrew Kotting, cited as being ‘the only film-maker currently practising who could be said to have the spirit of visionary curiosity and hybrid creativity exemplified by the late Derek Jarman’.

Comparisons are unfair - Andrew Kotting is very much himself - a force of nature.

The event takes place at a packed Kino Teatr in St Leonards and starts with author Iain Sinclair intoning: ‘This is outside of history and time - the purpose is to reanimate the dead and forgotten.”

The dead, in this case, are Harold, fallen protagonist of the Battle of Hastings, and his lover - the woman who identified his broken body on the battlefield - Edith Swan Neck.

The film is a silently spooling backdrop while the cast of players assemble in front of it to summon ghosts with the aid of junk-yard percussion, voices, contraptions and a full drum kit. What we are witnessing is a seance - a conjuration.

The union of Kotting’s hedge wizard and Sinclair’s dark magus has once again produced some potent magic.

There is a strong supporting cast with local woman Claudia Barton, who plays Edith in the film, lending her ethereal voice, while former Pogue Jem Finer adds his sharp production skills and haunting sounds.

Drummer David Aylward, who I am more used to seeing with a side drum in the midst of the Deptford Jack May Day revellers in London, turns out to be a highly skilled percussionist in total command of his full kit. In the film he produces sound from signposts, street furniture - anything that resonates.

Being in the audience takes on the feeling of a voyage on mad ship that ploughs its way through past and present.

Sinclair, sitting nobly, stage right, like a ship’s figurehead, stares out toward the limitless depths of the screen on which his doppelganger now appears.

Kotting, in an outfit more Alcatraz than medieval wields an electric fan like some insane shield maiden.

A happy debut for Hastings and a film and performance that deserves a wider showing.

By Andrew Hemsley.