Monday 18 February 2019

Akenfield - the book, the film

The original 2 minute 'trailer' for Akenfield

The book of Akenfield by Ronald Blythe (1969) was recommended me by my history teacher; and made a powerful impact.

It consists of two elements: a set of wide-ranging interviews with old, middling and young adults in a 'composite' Suffolk village of the middle 1960s; lovingly rendered into permanently-memorable, distinctly characterised, subtly-poetic prose by the author.

These are supplemented by a good deal of factual, including statistical, material; the relevance and interest of which has by now considerably diminished.

The movie of Akenfield was made for television and broadcast on a Sunday evening in 1974, when it was watched by more than 14 million people - and is a rare example of a great book being adapted into an equivalently great film.

A great film quite unlike any other; because it was made at the same locations as the book, with an amateur cast of (mostly) working people living in the same places. It contains some of the most beautiful, powerful, and sad scenes of anything I know - again, permanently memorable.

If you watch the film; you will be astonished to realise that such an ambitious, high quality, demanding, spiritually-ambitious work could even be made; and more astonished that it would prove such an immediate success with so many ordinary people.

At the time, this was a source of hope for me. I felt that great matters were stirring in England. As things turned-out, it marked the end of an era rather than the start of anything better. But the work remains.

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