UK/Belgium, in 1993, 108 minutes, Black and white.
Natalie Morse, Gene Bervoets, Toyah Wilcox, Pete Postlethwaite, Christopher Eccleston, Michael Pas, Veronica Quilligan, Jan Decleir.
Directed by Chris Newby.
Anchoress is based on facts, letters written by the central character, Christine Carpenter, to the Bishop of Winchester.
Striking black-and-white photography, sparse musical score, a reliance on natural sounds, the film has an art house style.
Christine Carpenter, Natalie Morse, is 14 years old, lives with her mother, Pauline, Toyah Wilcox, who belongs to the pagan religions and employs elements of witchcraft, and her father, played by Pete Postlethwaite. The local Reeve, Gene Bervoets, wants to marry Christine, who rejects him, and he marries her sister.
In the meantime, Christine has an experience of Mary, centred on a statue, and decides that she would like to be an anchoress, being walled up in the church, living in cell, able to see the statue. People bring her food and drink.
The local parish priest, Christopher Ecclestone, feels that the Church will become a centre because of the anchoress. He himself has had relationships with women in the village and one of them gives birth to his child. A lustful man, he confronts Christine who eventually escapes because of her mother being persecuted and actually being killed by the village people. With the help of the Driver, she travels to Winchester where the Bishop rejects her plea of release from her vows and she goes off with the Drover.
Interesting to compare with other British films of the 13th and 14th centuries like Anazapta, Black Death, The Reckoning.
1. A 14th century story? Based on fact? Life in an English village? European atmosphere? The influence of the church?
2. Black-and-white photography, of the village, the church, homes, the countryside? Winchester? The musical score, sparse, natural sounds?
3. The title, the explanation of an Anchoress? Vocation, the young woman, beingn walled up, her piety, life in her cell, prayer, the glimpse of the statue of Mary?
4. Christine, life with her parents, her sisters, her age? Her mother, the traditions of pagan religion in Britain, touches of witchcraft, spells, abortions? Her father, his seeming lack of interest, his presence? Her sisters?
5. Her seeing the statue of Mary? Her decision to become an Anchoress, the village people bringing her sustenance, being walled up, her prayer, her relationship with the parish priest, his exploitation of her presence, his personal lusts, the clashes? The persecution of her mother? Her digging out of the cell, the help of the Drover, the visit to the Bishop of Winchester, his not agreeing to her request, her leaving with the Drover?
6. Pauline, with her daughters, activities, relationship with her husband, her daughters? The attentions of the Reeve, his possibility for marrying Christine, her parents’ approval, eventually marrying her sister?
7. The Reeve, his role in the village, personality, status, the decision to marry one of the Carpenter girls?
8. The priest, his control, his agreeing for Christine to be an Anchoress, her being walled up, his exploiting her, the church becoming celebrated because of her presence? His own personal life, the woman giving birth to his child? His lustful attitudes? The scenes of his confrontation with Christine?
9. Pauline, Christine digging out of the cell, to help her mother, her mother killed by the village mob?
10. Christine, her change of heart, the Drover, his help, the Bishop, and disappearing with the Drover?
11. An interesting perspective into village life, Church life in the 14th century?