Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Nov 18, 2021 9:52 pm 
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Respect the land, or woe betide you

This elegant horror film, first outing at the helm of a feature film for the prolific UK TV directing vet Lee Haven Jones, never explicitly spells out why it's all in the Welsh language, even down to the closing credits, which give "editor," "cinematographer," and "director" and every other film crew role in unrecognizable Welsh translations, though "grip" and "Steadicam" come untranslated. It appears, though, that there is a strong move on in Wales to increase the number of Welsh speakers in the country to a million or 40% of the population by 2050, and it's already the only Celtic language not considered endangered by UNESCO. In The Feast, there is a connection between the linguistic nativism of the dialogue and the direction of the plot whose violent bloodbath of a finale carries a moral: violate nature and the land and you and yours will come to a very bad end.

The thorough linguistic Welshness underlies an embedded warning: if you don't respect your land and your folk roots, "turn your backs on pastoral tradition in favor of greed" as David Rooney puts it in his Hollywood Reporter review, you will live to regret it. The dire ends that the posh new-rich central family comes to here show that. This movie gets to a slow start, but when it gets going, its gory, creepy action is original and choice.

Lady of the new-rich family is hostess Glenda (Nia Roberts). She is preparing to give a dinner party for seven at the sleek, expensive modern house she has erected in place of the family farm she has had dismantled. Her husband Gwyn (Julian Lewis Jones) is a big dishonest politician (what else?) who's much of the time in London; he even lies about the two dead rabbits they're having as one of the courses, whose bodies he merely found, saying he shot them both.

Increased wealth has come through leasing out land for mining extraction and cooperating in this venture and reinvestment of the proceeds with a slimebag with the subtle moniker Euros (Rhodri Meilir). A long, thin creep who physically reminded me of Pål Sverre Hagen, the crime boss of In Order of Disappearance, but not as amusing, Euros is a land-exploitation, get-rich enabler who can't stop gobbling all the food in front of him, a gluttonous habit that ends with a revolting finale. He's balanced off against a decent, honest second guest, a neighbor, Mair (Lisa Palfrey), who with her husband runs their farm as it has always been. Mair has been invited so Euros and Glenda can persuade her to sell out her own land too, to continue mining exploitation and so Euros can invest and profit for everybody.

The host couple have two creepy semi-adult sons. The younger is a sexy degenerate, a drug addict called Guto (Steffan Cennydd, brought up from London - he hates anything but big cities - to get clean after an OD scare; creepier to look at is Gweirvydd (Sion Alun Davies), who has temporarily set aside his medical studies to pursue intensively for a triathlon. His obsession with self-development, clearly seen as unhealthy here, comes off as masturbatory self-obsession. He goes around massaging himself lasciviously in a tight lycra body sock and shaves his whole body, even parts you don't need to for a swim race.

The deus ex machina of folk revenge, also creepy, arrives in the person of a local waitress, Cadi (Annes Wlwy), hired by Glanda for the evening to assist at dinner and clean up anything else that goes wrong. In the event, Cadi turns out to be one of those people around whom things go slowly, increasingly, wrong; whenever she "helps" as disaster strikes, it leads to much grimmer and more horrific eventualities.

This horror movie hater was mightily pleased by The Feast: an extremely good looking, well constructed film, it manages to use familiar trappings of the horror genre, the noises, the blood, the growing mayhem, in ways that are fresh and distinctive and very much have an overall point. And as Jessica Kiang notes in her March SXSW Variety review, it was all done on a very modest budget. With the Welsh setting and (to most of us) mysterious, off-putting language, this makes a neat and original package.

The Feast, 93 mins., debuted at SXSW, showing at a dozen other festivals including Neufchatel, Montreal (Fantasia) BFI London, Fantasy Filmfest (Germany) and Thessaloniki. US release Nov. 19, 2021.

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