Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Passing - more Welsh noir, if you know your history

Severn Screen's The Passing

I tend to go down these cultural rabbit holes. After watching Severn Screen's second season of the excellent Hidden (Craith, in Welsh), I was drawn to this feature length 'horror' written a few years earlier by Ed Talfan, producer of Hinterland and Hidden, and a particularly gruesome historical horror film The Apostle from 2018.

The trailer suggested it was going to be a horror film, I think. The premise being that it starts with a lonely man tending to a run down farm, building a well. He's played by Mark Lewis Jones, a Welsh actor of some stature, who brought real presence recently to both his part as Steve Baldini in Keeping Faith and as Prince Charles' Welsh language tutor, Edward Millward in The Crown. There is a sense of foreboding and a tragic, hidden menace, but as the story goes on you're sure the gentle giant Lewis Jones' Stanley is just that, but that the young man and the woman he's pulled from a crashed car have something they're running from.

All of the spoken dialogue is in Welsh, but it's also sparse and packed full of non-verbal tension, with just the three actors, the couple played by Annes Elwy from Hidden, and Dyfan Swyfor who stars in S4C's Bang, which is now on my list. Yet for all of the uncertain undercurrents of tragedy and loss, The Passing is a remarkably tender and reflective story. There are a couple of dark twists that I can't even begin to hint at, but by the end of it (and I'd worked it out), you realise it's a work of quiet allegorical genius. Like many of the other projects that Talfan and his cohort are creating, it's a body of work that not only tells the stories of the people of Wales, that lets the landscape play an important central part, but does so in knowing and critical solidarity. It's far more ambitious in that regard than just Scandi Noir, Welsh style, unless of course I'm missing something cultural there too.

Should I pay any attention to reviews on IMDb? I was surprised it wasn't higher rated, but those who just didn't get it seemed to really hate it. Yes, there are things that happen that are improbable, impossible, inexplicable. That's the point. All I'll say is this: Cofiwch Drywern.  So if you know what that means, fine, if you don't, that's not fine and you probably ought to read more. Coming up next, a review of this important book I've gone back to and finished by this guy. Isolation rabbit holes, eh?

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