The release of The Wicker Man- The Final Cut is the conclusion of director Robin Hardy’s forty year odyssey.
Of course no odyssey would be complete without a little folklore that comes in the form of not a towering wicker man, but the pylons of the M4 motorway.From perceived to actual perfection, the “Final Cut” is a masterful piece of filmmaking that amends the imperfections of the theatrical and directors cuts.
Based on Hardy’s original American Abraxas cut, it comes as close to presenting Hardy’s original vision as any before, hopefully putting the full stop on the “Curse of The Wicker Man.” From the simple premise of “a Christian coppers” journey to the island of Summerisle, to investigate the disappearance of a missing girl, director Hardy and writer Shaffer unravel one of the deadliest games ever committed to film.
A musical drama, thriller, detective story, as well as a horror, to roll it up neatly and place it under the umbrella of horror cinema, does the film a grave disservice. We should not allow our cineliterate limitations to restrict the complex and genre defying identity of this British gem.
Originally forming one half of a double bill with Nicolas Roeg’s psychological thriller Don’t Look Now, The Wicker Man was the second in a double bill of deadly games conceived by Shaffer, following the adaptation of his play Sleuth for the screen in the preceding year.
As aforementioned, “The Final Cut” amends the imperfections of the theatrical and directors cuts. The synchronicity of the opening and close of the film is finally restored; the film for the first time being brought full circle with a reflective glance that compares the two religions, and debunking Howie’s view of Christianity as the religion of the civilised. Gone also is the laborious setup at the start of the “Directors Cut”, that sees The Wicker Man restored to its original concise and succinct form. One quip of the creative variety is Christopher Lee’s entrance, his introduction in the theatrical version more effective in capturing Lord Summerisle’s grandeur, whilst through Lee’s performance equally capturing the humorous and philosophical side of his character. It also merges the civil and uncivilised more effectively, portraying both Howie (Edward Woodward) and Summerisle as Jekyll and Hyde.
It is difficult to not perceive Hardy and Shaffer’s game of cat and mouse as anything other than an anti-religious film. Yet if we scratch the surface it is perhaps more of an anti-human film, in that it depicts our capacity to dirty something that presents us with something pure to aspire to, and to guide us on life’s journey. Of course there is the obvious xenophobia of “the other” as well as man’s oppressive nature. Then there is the merging of belief with the oldest and most primitive human instinct, that of survival or self-preservation.
The Wicker Man at its heart is a tale of the failure of religion to civilise the instinctively violent human race, and therein casting the guise of the monstrous upon humanity and not religion.
The film possesses a raw creative feel, and serves as a testament to what Claude Chabrol would call the imperfection of cinema. In an age of high definition, Blu-Ray and digital cinema, The Wicker Man with its grainy image, and Hardy’s raw instinctive direction, feels as if it was created by human hands. As such it possesses a timeless quality, retaining the distinct sense of feeling it offers to those whether discovering it for the first time, or rediscovering it.
Following on from an authoritative 3 disc set released in 2006, Studio Canal finishes what they started with the final word on The Wicker Man with The Final Cut that comprehensively explores Robin Hardy and the films odyssey. Bravo Studio Canal, and now we must not miss our appointment with The Wicker Man.
The Wicker Man – The Final Cut is available to own on DVD and Blu-Ray from Monday 14 October courtesy of Studio Canal. More information from the website.
Read our interview with Robin Hardy here