At the heart of Penda’s Fen is Stephen, a young man whose life appears to be one of privilege and complacency. He is the embryonic Everyman with his ideological certainties and cocooning conservatism leading him into adulthood. But as he connects with the landscape he begins to have Blake-ian visions that awaken his suppressed psyche and begin a true reconnection with the landscape and his id.
Penda’s Fen is recognisably a product of the era that bought us TV such as The Owl Service and Children of the Stones as well as films The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan’s Claw. Alan Clarke’s film, part of the groundbreaking Play For Today, disappeared into obscurity in the years following its 1974 screening but with the burgeoning interest in hauntology, wyrd folk and folk horror its cult continued to grow until it was rescued by the BFI with a restoration in 2016.
This is a richly rewarding and unique film, a quasi-mystical entry into the visionary folk genre of the late 60s – early 80s and essential viewing. The BFI have just announced details of a screening and symposium on 10 June which includes a Q&A with writer David Rudkin