From visionary filmmaker Mark Jenkin, the Bafta award-winning director of Bait. Enys Men is a mind-bending Cornish folk horror set in 1973 that unfolds on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast. A wildlife volunteer’s (Mary Woodvine) daily observations of a rare flower take a dark turn into the strange and metaphysical, forcing both her and viewers to question what is real and what is nightmare. Is the landscape not only alive but sentient? Shot by Jenkin on grainy 16mm colour film stock and with his trademark post-synched sound, the form feels both innovative and authentic to the period. Filmed on location around the disused tin mines of West Penwith, it is also an ode to Cornwall’s rich folklore and natural beauty.
When I was small we would visit the Merry Maidens, a stone circle not far from my Gran’s house in West Penwith. Legend had it that the 19 stones were the petrified remains of agroup of girls punished for dancing on a Sunday. They had frolicked across the moorland to the tune of two Pipers. The Pipers had also been set in stone, a distance away from the circle, for their part in the heathen ritual. As we traveled home from seeing the girls I would glimpse the tall, imposing figures of The Pipers, above the hedges, through the gateways, silhouetted against the sky. But they were never where I expected them to be. Sometimes further away, sometimes very close, sometimes, and most unnervingly, not there at all. These images, formed at an impressionable age stayed with me, and some nights, even now, I find myself lying awake, wondering about those stones. What might they be up to, under cover of darkness, out there on their own, on the moor, with no-one watching.
What if The Pipers weren’t dead?
What if the stones were living?
What if the landscape was not only alive, but sentient?
This was the starting point for Enys Men.