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"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."
Gorgeous and thought-provoking
Carl McColman | Clarkston, GA USA | 03/16/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
A visual feast for the senses and soul
Carl McColman | 11/15/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Carl McColman | 05/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm not saying much, because saying anything is already too much. Filmed in black/white, the poetic suggestions and use of imagery are simply spectacular. At the same time it's very subtle, evoking comparison with Bergmann, Lagerkvist and Popol Vuh. See the rough sculpture of the blessed virgin being carried across the field of rye and you will get drunk on the poetry that's in it. Oh, and the ending!!! It's wine....A friend told us about it, we caught it the last night of its run and I thank GOD every day that we did not miss it."
Failry authentic medieval film
Stephen Balbach | Ashton, MD United States | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."