In a small Welsh town, a boy lives alone with his unstable mother. The mother is determined to see that her son enter the clergy some day, but her insistence on this issue is a source of tension between the woman and her boy. As the child’s protests grow more violent, the mother’s sanity deteriorates, leading to tragedy. Years later, the son, now a grown man, returns to the town where he was born to confront his dark past.
Best cinema film feature made in Welsh?
‘Un Nos Olau Leuad’ deserved to have an Oscar nomination – as much if not more so than Hedd Wyn, the first Welsh language film to get that accolade.
This week I saw UNOL again on S4C with a dramatically improved digital print and soundtrack.
I appreciated even more than before the subtlety of the script and editing, using visual cues and cultural evocations (Welsh language hymns for instance) the landscape (both the industrial and astoundingly beautiful natural scenery) to stitch the panes of the quilt together – an amalgam of child’s eye narrative with actual and psychological ‘journeys’. An ambitious scope that was based on an equally daring and modern novel by Caradog Pritchard.
Some of this is accomplished by unassuming story telling and much by powerfully understated acting. The power of the occasional scenes of ‘magical realism’ was lost on me during my first viewings but I now appreciate their success in taking us over the threshold into the adult world the child (in us as well) cannot grasp – the powerful world of death, heaven and hell, sex/sin/salvation, hypocrisy and truth, both told and hidden.
I also originally wanted more demonstrative performances from the protagonist, as boy and man – but now appreciate the director letting the sheer horrors of life innocently observed speak most powerfully for themselves.
The novel is more complex and a feature film has to be closer to a short story in terms of content and narrative complexity. I judge this film as a work of art in its own right and without direct comparison with Pritchard’s masterpiece.
The film has a remarkable confidence in its cinematic language but – and I make allowance for this – is at times hampered by the limited resources and cinematic film experience that Wales could muster at that time, compared with much of the European independent sector and vastly less than Holly or even Bollywood!
Yet it is still a more genuinely powerful, emotionally intense work of artistic integrity than so many of its peers from the UK, let alone Welsh language films made then or since.
Director: Endaf Emlyn.
Writers: Endaf Emlyn, Gwenlyn Parry.
Stars: Dyfan Roberts, Tudor Roberts, Betsan Llwyd, Delyth Einir, Cian Ciaran, Dilwyn Vaughn Thomas, Robin Griffith, Stewart Jones, Michael Povey, Elliw Haf, Wyn Bowen Harries, Sian Wheldon, Grey Evans, Endaf Emlyn, Dafydd Clwyd, Llyr Dyfan, Sioned Jones Williams, Mandi Owen, Sian Wyn Gibson, Siwan Humphries, Frank Rozelaar-Green, Trefor Ap Lorwerth, Marc Jason, Marian Roberts, Myron Lloyd, Einir Wyn Parry, Don McCarthy, Gwynedd Roberts.
Composer: Mark Thomas.
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