Saturday, 20 June 2009

Circles of the Solstice Night

To celebrate Summer Solstice night, during the short hours of which these words are being written, here are a couple of suitably pagan pieces of film centreing on the stones of Avebury, one of the three destinations we aim to reach this year. Derek Jarman's flickering and filtered super-8 films seem to capture or re-animate an ancient spirit of the landscape (the genius loci) through the grain and speckle of a technology which, in our accelerated times, is in itself a pre-historic (ie pre-digital) mode of seeing. Coil's rumbling ambient drones which accompany the images could be the hum of the currents earthed by the megaliths and sarsens. This is poetical imagination here, by the way. I don't actually buy into new-age earth 'energy' folderol. But I do recognise the power of certain landscapes and the generations of inhabitation which have made their mark upon them. At some sites, the distant past seems to be closer to the surface than at others. The imprint remains fresh.

Children of the Stones was a series I loved as a child and have rediscovered twice in the intervening years, both times hoping that its power hadn't diminished. I still love it, and will probably still pretend that one of the giant Avebury stones gives me an electromagnetic jolt which throws me back onto the ground when next I go there. The opening credits are great, the camera swooping and looming in a wide-angled collision course towards the pock-marked and ice-cracked surfaces of the stones. And the music! This was an era when a children's itv programme could have a theme tune whose composer drew on Gyorgy Ligeti and other avant-garde influences to create a mesmerically atmospheric piece of ritualistic choral music, ending in that soaringly haunting solo soprano melody as the camera-eye drifts on aerial currents above the town-within-the-circle, the whistling of an eerie wind becoming audible as the final notes fade away. So, let us take to the old rugged roads, the trackways which lead to the centre of the circle, and then follow the West Kennet Avenue to find Sanctuary. Happy Day!

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