Following his defeat at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, it was Harold Godwinson’s wife, Edith, who identified his remains among the carnage of the battlefield. It is this traumatic image of the end of a marriage, and a king, which Andrew Kötting’s new film dwells upon. Edith Walks is the third collaboration between artist/director Kötting and author Iain Sinclair. The experimental short sees Edith Swan Neck herself played, or more appropriately “channelled”, by performer Claudia Barton, joined by Kötting, Sinclair, and a small crew as they make a pilgrimage from Harold’s tomb at Waltham Abbey to the couple’s statue on the coast at Hastings.
Edith and her entourage seem to haunt the historical sites like ghosts, unable to move on from these defining past moments. This sentiment is echoed by one of the group, graphic novelist Alan Moore: “the past is never put away, and all its figures still active”. Ruminations on the nature of time, history and death are joined by Edith’s gleefully morbid whispering, as she performs verses from “The Battlefield of Hastings”. The troupe travels with an unwieldy, rattling music box, and holds impromptu performances by playing percussion on bike wheels. They speak of their belief that the slain king was reincarnated and haunts the countryside defending England from beyond the grave. Filmed and edited on iPhone apps, the work has a homespun feel that contrasts well with its highbrow historical and philosophical discussions.
A longer cut of such strangeness might have grown unbearable, but the project clocks in at a deliberate 60 minutes and 66 seconds, leaving just enough time for it to gain interest and create an atmosphere before becoming tiresome. With more powerful philosophies than many experimental films, Edith Walks benefits from a story as cerebral as its style is quirky, as well as an excellent whimsical performance from Barton.
Edith Walks is released nationwide on 23rd June 2017.
Watch the trailer for Edith Walks here: