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On the Black Hill

DVD Two Stars
On the Black Hill is adapted from the novel of the same name by Bruce Chatwin, the story of the lives of twin brothers who grow up and live their entire lives on the farm where they were born in Wales, albeit for a few brief trips away, one brother to a neighbouring farm to avoid the war, and the other brother to the war itself.

It chronicles their lives and the connections with others and themselves, an ambitious film to make considering the amount of time and material to cover, but one that provides for some beautiful moments set against the Welsh landscape.

TheFilm.pngOnTheBlackHill.jpgAndrew Grieve directs the film adaptation, which he also wrote the screenplay for, and tries to condense eighty years into a film that will engage the audience, no small task, especially considering the well respected source novel.

The film begins with the twins waking up together and getting ready for a day out. As they go about their ritual the camera lingers on photographs which explain a little of their lives and the others in their story, and it's these shots that start to show you how well filmed this is going to be.

As the titles end the film takes us back to their mother and father and how they first met, and speeds through their courtship to their wedding and first few years of their lives together. It's not an easy life, especially not with the portrayal of the hard and extremely religious husband played by Bob Peck. It seems as though the wife, played by Gemma Jones, sacrifices a lot in her life to settle with him and to live her life as the farmhouse wife.

Then the twins are born and the film kicks into high gear, touching on key moments in their life as we come closer and closer to the moment the film opened.

The main thing that strikes you about the film is the lack of time that is spent on these different moments in the characters lives. The scenes are carefully picked and don't feel superfluous, each scene appears to be there for a reason, for character or plot development. This is perhaps the greatest achievement of the film because it could be so easy to lose your way amongst all the stories that could be told and the time that could be spent with the characters.

However I also did get the feeling that we were skimming over a lot of the story and never really stayed long enough with them to burrow into the heart of the characters and develop them a bit more. I did feel as though we were skimming the surface of their relationships and feelings, and so I didn't think I was attached as I could have been.

That said, you do become attached to the characters, just not very emotionally attached, more inquisitive and curious than anything.

It's Bob Peck's father figure that captures the screen and the viewer the best though, his journey of growing old and slowly more and more mad is very engaging and his rivalry with the neighbouring farmer is perhaps one of the strongest story lines and sequences. Although I did not like the character, I did enjoy the performance and wanted to see more of his self destructive and obsessive ways.

The picture carries with it a grain that actually gives it a strong texture matching the mood of the film, I suspect however this is more due to budgetary constraints than anything, but the result is a pleasant surprise. What is great about the picture is when the camera moves to the outside, and that happens for a large part of the film. What we are then treated to are some wonderful Welsh hill views which look great upscaled to 1080p.

There's nothing much to be had from the stereo audio track, being as it is mainly dialogue, and it delivers the sound well enough.

Extras.pngIntroductory booklet written by Andrew Grieve, Peter And Ben: Pinny Grylls' touching short film
Introductory booklet written by Andrew Grieve
Some interesting information to be had from the booklet, and it's a nice little alternative to some real extras on the disc.

Peter And Ben: Pinny Grylls' touching short film
Well coming from Inverness and Aberdeen a short film about the relationship between a man and a sheep is rather worrying, but not so here. The short is too short and does seem to fall short of what it was trying to achieve. I didn't quite feel any of the relationship I think the short was aiming for, but it does have some nice touches.

Overall.pngI did struggle with this film because I never felt drawn into the characters. There are a few moments where I thought that the story was going to build up and that the characters would have some more depth added to them, but they never did. The length of the film and of the story are rather at odds and to be fair it does a very good job of balancing the two.

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UK IMDB Film Details



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