Luttrell Psalter Film
‘I suppose I was expecting the standard documentary-style piece, with voiceover, pieces to camera, intercut with a couple of re-creations of medieval life. That’s certainly a film they could have made, but instead they’ve made a deceptively simple 20 minute film recreating scenes from the Luttrell Psalter in an effort to transport us back 600 years. No plot, no narration, not many words at all.
As a result, if you just view the film, it’s a very impressionistic experience. Oxen, breath steaming in the cold Lincolnshire air, haul a crude but familiar-looking plough across a field. A young boy vaults up a tree to steal some cherries, narrowly escaping a wrathful farmer. Chickens scratch around a farmyard. A wronged wife belabours her penitent husband with a stick. We’re left to have our own opinions on how like these people we are and how unlike. How hard life must have been and how rewarding.
The film took 2 years to make, on a budget that wouldn’t normally cover the costumes, and the makers travelled to the North West to film red squirrels, to Wales to find a medieval village, and to London to find a scriptorium. This truly was a labour of love, and it shows on the screen.
For those unfamiliar with the book, the interview with the ever-watchable Michelle Brown is required viewing, and helps relate the book to the film.
So as a piece of film-making, experimental archaeology, pedagogy and indeed art, the film is an unlikely success. I hope the team put a copy online soon and it gets the wider audience it deserves’.
Michael Stocking (creator of the British Library Talking Books software) 2010