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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 11:58 am:   

So, there's this film I watched last week...

Written by David Rudkin and running at about three hours, Artemis 81 is really like nothing I've seen before. I mean that in an entirely good way, incidentally. I'll try to give you some idea of what it's like.

Gideon Harlax (Hywel Bennett) is a commercially successful but emotionally detached writer of supernatural fiction. He finds material in a spate of mysterious suicides afflicting passengers who travelled on a particular North Sea ferry. Meanwhile, on an alien world with two moons, two 'angels'- Helith (Sting) and Asrealare (Roland Curram) prepare to go down upon the Earth- Helith to prevent its destruction, Asrealare to precipitate it.

Also travelling on the ill-fated ferry are Gwen Meredith (Dinah Stabb), the woman who loves Gideon, even though he's unable to fully connect with her, and the organist Albrecht von Drachenfels (Daniel O'Herlihy.) Through a series of cryptic clues, von Drachenfels reveals to Gideon that he is being forced to play an unwilling part in Asraelare's plans, which could lead to the destruction of the entire world. Gideon is the only person who can prevent its fruition, but to do so he has to come alive emotionally; he has already been warned he's 'dead inside'.

And then an explosion knocks Gideon out and sends him, accompanied by Helith, on an odyssey through a decaying, nightmarish city that may be a city of the dead, and into an underground complex where... but no. I don't want to spoil this for viewers, and what I've mentioned so far is just scratching the surface.

Is this a perfect film? Not quite; there are speeches in it that clang somewhat; you could get away with them in a more stylised setting, but in what's framed as a realistic scene they verge on the cod-poetic. There's a clumsy and unnecessary aside near the end where Gideon addresses us directly, which no-one's done previously in the entire film- but this is brief, and if there are lapses into the pretentious, then the overall achievement of the film more than compensates for them.

The performances are all round superb; this might be the best performance I've seen from Hywel Bennett, Sting is excellent in an almost 'man who fell to earth' type role, Curram is a truly chilling angel of death, and in his earthbound guise appears to be channelling Lugosi's Dracula. Daniel O'Herlihy gives a frankly magisterial performance as von Drachenfels- tormented, dignified, compassionate, a hugely gifted man trapped in an intolerable situation and trying to find an honourable way out of it. Throw this into a storyline that mixes the mythic and the science-fictional, not to mention a visually brilliant and deeply moving homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo, and you have Artemis 81; at times frustrating, but never less than intriguing, fiercely intelligent, and ultimately satisfying. *







* No, Zed, there are no boobies. **




** Or clunge.


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Des (Des)
Username: Des

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 86.143.99.210
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 12:18 pm:   

I watched this when it was first on in 1981. I spent years trying to recall what it was called - and see if I could watch it again. Only relatively recently, I solved the mystery. I've yet to see it again. But I do recall it affecting me deeply.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.81.136
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:03 pm:   

I saw this on its showing on TV too, and like Des I forgot the title for years, referring to it as "that thing with Sting" for some time. I recall being intrigued, but I've never seen it since.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:07 pm:   

It's now been released on DVD. Cost me about a fiver, IIRC.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.5.60.115
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:24 pm:   

I'll be buying it, Simon! At the time it affected me so much that the day after, as I was travelling into Liverpool I found a glimpse of the Anglican cathedral quite terrifying (because of its use in the film).
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.147.136.184
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:26 pm:   

"the best performance I've seen from Hywel Bennett"


Better than he was in Shelley? I don't believe it!!!
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:40 pm:   

Sounds interesting - might be one to buy ...

However, I think I've seen it advertised a few times at local art house cinema type events. Might wait until it appears on the big screen somewhere as it sounds like the kind of thing you need to watch on the big screen.
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Simon Bestwick (Simon_b)
Username: Simon_b

Registered: 10-2008
Posted From: 86.24.209.217
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 03:49 pm:   

Caroline- would love to see it on the big screen!

Ramsey- I did hear somewhere of an upcoming screening of 'Penda's Fen', another of David Rudkin's TV plays. Sad that you don't see the single TV play any more, and even TV films like this are a rarity. Might be in Newcastle. 'Penda' has yet to come out on DVD, worse luck.

Incidentally, forgot to mention that the film includes a (non-speaking) cameo from the late, great Ingrid Pitt, and an early performance from the then-unknown Daniel Day Lewis.
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John Llewellyn Probert (John_l_probert)
Username: John_l_probert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.142.242.169
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 05:52 pm:   

Oh yes! I saw this when it was first shown and spent years after trying to find a video copy of it. I finally picked it up on DVD two years ago.

It's not bad at all, is it?
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 06:02 pm:   

I hadn't even heard of this. Sounds fascinating.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.178.81.136
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 06:05 pm:   

5.99 from Play, folks:-

http://www.play.com/DVD/DVD/4-/3299689/-/Product.html?P36=U9AJWM&affid=finddvd&a wc=buyat&_$ja=tsid:11516|prd:finddvd
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 08:47 pm:   

SOLD!
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Sunday, May 15, 2011 - 09:01 pm:   

I bought a copy, too.

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