Director Andrew Kötting’s latest Psycho-geographical feature offers up far more questions than it is likely to answer, and his many fans wouldn’t want to have it otherwise. Edith Walks is a brilliantly shambolic and wonderfully ramshackle adventure which reconciles it audiences with the weird and wonderful world of King Harold’s “handfast” wife Edith The Fair (Edith Swan Neck), who alone was able to identify his mutilated body as he lay dead after the battle of Hastings in 1066.
Featuring author Iain Sinclair and with a truly impressive performance from brilliantly eclectic singer Claudia Barton as Edith herself, the film is a pilgrimage of sorts which seeks to retrace Harold’s lover’s journey from Waltham Abbey in Essex via Battle Abbey to St Leonards-On-Sea to be reconnected with her dead king.
Accompanied by a merry band of weird and wonderful characters, Kötting uses a super 8 camera to tell this captivating story. Caludia Barton as Edith is truly fascinating, the singer not so much as performs the part of Edith, but she inhabits her fully. She remains in character throughout the whole journey, and is even referred to by Kötting and others as Edith. As they advance through the English countryside, and over bridges and rivers depicted though the grainy quality of the super 8 camera, the group are met by a gaggle of interesting characters, including legendary writer and self-confessed wizard Alan Moore (V for Vendetta, Watchmen). Moore recounts an alternative imagined story about Harold, which he shares with the group who all seem to be as au-fait with it as he is. Musicians Jem Finer and David Aylward, and pinhole photographer Anonymous Bosch, also take part in this procession which is intercut with archival material from Screen Archive South East of school children re-enacting the Battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings.
Edith Walks presents its viewers with the choice to either embrace the weirdness and go with it, or be left none the wiser. There are shades of Cervantes’s Don Quixote, as the group meanders through the English countryside in search of a piece of history. Kötting offers up a truly captivating look at a story which may not be familiar to most of us. Many would have seen the statue depicting Edith on Hasting’s seafront without ever wondering about the real woman behind the legend. Kötting et al do a great job in lifting the veil on this story all the while managing to have a huge amount of fun doing it. The camaraderie which develop between the principle protagonists over the five days, is clear to see from their interactions alone.
Kötting’s film may not be for everyone, but if psycho-geography is your bag, and even if it isn’t, Edith Walks is a real eye opener and shows just how much can be achieved with very little material and even less money. The film perhaps shouldn’t be seen as a stand alone piece of filmmaking, but rather as part of Kötting’s general body of work which is well worth delving into. A truly unusual film which offers way more than you would have bargained for.
Edith Walks is released on June 23rd.