Directed by Robin Hardy (1973, rated R, 88 minutes)
The following film notes have been written by the artist George Shaw:
Neil Howie, a policeman from the mainland, arrives on a remote Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. He soon becomes caught up in the May Day celebrations and, as a Christian, becomes increasingly disturbed by the pagan traditions performed by the islanders. His investigations lead him to the charismatic Lord Summerisle, who tells him of the island’s history and how its prosperity is owed to its fertility and the worship of the old gods. The Wicker Man is the strangest, the most horrific, and the most lyrical of horror films. A film that faded into obscurity after its initial release, it has subsequently become a cult all of its own.
Was there ever a time that my imagination was not stirred by the images and promise of this film? I spent my childhood in fear of summer school fetes, street parties, and day-trips to the countryside. The familiar and the innocent became transformed into the strange and the malevolent. All pageantry was a dance to the grave. The Wicker Man is one of the few horror films you can believe in.
This screening is part of the artist’s film series Films of Innocence and Experience, with titles selected by George Shaw. All screenings are free and, unless otherwise noted, take place in the Center’s Lecture Hall. Seating is limited.
Film was an important part of my childhood years and continues to be an influence in how I see the world. Films have had an influence in nearly every one of my paintings. For this series, I have selected films from a range of genres, including the kitchen sink tradition of the sixties through to science fiction, crime, horror, and comedy. For me, they present a picture of Britain that is almost autobiographical, and I see in them a landscape that is so familiar, so angry, so disturbing, so eerie, and so funny that it can only be the Britain in which I grew up.
The title of the series is a nod to William Blake’s illustrated book of poetry Songs of Innocence and Experience, which I had the pleasure of viewing during my last trip to the Center. When I was asked to select some of my favorite films to complement the exhibition, I found that many of the themes in the films I chose echoed those within Blake’s poetry: Innocence falling into experience at the hands of the state, of religion, of industry, of economics, of the abuses of power, and of our own fears and anxieties as life slips by.