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'Enys Men' review: A woman's mind unravels in Mark Jenkin's hypnotic folk horror

Mark Jenkin’s elegant psychodrama, Enys Men, titled Cornish from Stone Island, referring to is an isolated landscape, and in the credits a woman identified only as a volunteer (Mary Woodvine) lives alone in a vine-covered cabin. Nearby is a large, roughly human-shaped boulder set into the gate to the cottage, alluding to an island legend Jenkin said he learned as a child, that girls were turned to stone when they sang on the Sabbath. Despite its folk horror overtones, the film’s atmosphere is more haunting than terrifying. Past and present are fluid, a woman’s memory and imagination beckoning to someone who couldn’t possibly be there. The film defies any logical narrative and relies on poetic images and associations. It shows that the most terrifying things in the world may be inside your own head.

Every day, the woman inspects a small clump of flowers growing between the rocks, examines the soil around them, and drops a stone into an old mine shaft. She penciled the results in the ledger, listing them in a long line of “no change.” The date in the ledger tells us it was 2019, the year the wicker man release, an obvious litmus test for a film rooted in the remote island’s pagan past. The date also explains why a blaring shortwave radio was her only means of communicating with the outside world. Can’t see anyone else — that is, until she starts seeing people from the past, people on the island and her own. The film’s depiction of extreme isolation and its effect on the mind evokes Robert Eggers Beacon , but with less narrative. Enys Men

Bottom Line Elusive yet captivating.

Release date:
Friday, March 31
Throwing: Mary Woodwin, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe, John Woodwin
Director and screenwriter:
Mark Jenkin
1 hour 16 minutes

Enys Men was released after screenings at festivals such as Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and New York and London Film Festivals . Before that, Jenkin used his 1970 movie Bait, won the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Debut but is only now getting a US Award release. As he did in

Bait, , here Jenkin writes, shoots, edits, and crafts a soundscape whose aesthetics and approach to filming are as important as any story.

He has created an intentionally vintage look for Enys Men, that reflects s. Movies are in mm and boxy 4:3 Shot in aspect ratio, with a hand-cranked Bolex camera. Saturated colors capture the bright sea and gray cliffs, while the woman’s raincoat and barely functioning generator glow bright red, keeping the cabin lights on. Sound is also important, with Jenkin having a low hum or wind on the synth. This handcrafted feel is perfect for the restricted, closed worlds he creates.

This style is full of close-ups, on the woman’s boots, on the rocks, on Woodvine’s usually calm face. She walked unhurriedly, and, ominously, she tended to ignore the radio messages. Halfway through, just when her routine was starting to feel too repetitive, she noticed lichen starting to grow on one of the flowers—a dramatic event indicated by the sound of the gong—and more visions began to appear. A man in a yellow raincoat came from a supply ship, although she had found the same jacket in the sea before, and the ship he was on appeared to be in . She even found a fragment of the ship’s name from the hull and put it on the mantelpiece.

Memory, imagination and reality blur. A young woman who appears to be the Volunteer’s younger self appears in the hut, sleeping in the bed and more often standing on the roof. Her identity isn’t hinted at until later in the film, when we see the young woman with wounds similar to those on the volunteers. After lichens started growing on the flowers, lichens also started growing on the volunteers’ scars.

Maybe the body lichen is “real” in the movie’s fictional world, or maybe she’s imagining it. Jenkin doesn’t even allow us to know for sure if this is actually a ghost story. Events are almost entirely from the woman’s point of view, but not always. How do we see the scene where she faces the camera, but behind her is a group of women from the past – like the seven maids on the label of her milk powder package – standing there watching her? It is also not specifically defined which century these figures come from. What is clear is that the past plays on the volunteer’s mind, as if she is engulfed by nature and the island itself.

It may take a second watch to appreciate how intricately Jenkin layered this film. Volunteers read at night by candlelight, always the same little book, A Blueprint for Survival (an actual book Jenkin found). Many visions from the past have been juxtaposed with this reading, including more or less A priest of the century, he preached fiercely. The miners of the past sat on the toilet in the hut and read a book, then calmly pulled up their pants and walked out the door (Enys Men had a flash of inspiration) ).

All of this is engaging even if unclear, as the film’s aesthetic appeal and pacing make up for any confusion. Anyone looking for answers or clarity may run away from this movie early, but it rewards multiple viewings for anyone willing to partake.

Earlier this year, Jenkin curated a season at the BAFTA with an accompanying essay opening with a quote from Robert Bresson A quote from that perfectly describes what he did to such an amazing film in Enys Men: “I’d rather people feel a movie first movie, and then understand it.”

Full credits

Production companies: Film4, Sound/Image Cinema Lab, Bosena
Dealer: Neon Lights

Cast: Mary Woodvein, Edward Rowe, Flo Crowe, John Woodvein

Director, screenwriter, director of photography, editor and original score: Mark Jenkin
Producer: Denzil Monk
Executive Producers: Deborah Boden, Ben Coren, Lauren Dark, Johnny Fewings, Kingsley Marshall, Denzil Monk Production Designer: Joe Gray, Mae Voogd 1 hour31 minute

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