I have been refamiliarising myself with Derek Jarman’s 1971 short film, A Journey to Avebury, in a newly remastered version by Phil Barrington. Full details of the remaster and of the soundtrack by Coil can be found in Barrington’s excellent essay on the project here.
A Journey to Avebury was filmed in 1971 and it feels both of its time and timeless simultaneously. The landscape around Avebury is a sort of huge time machine anyway so the sense of temporal dislocation is already present in the land itself. But Jarman’s film brings something else to this ritual landscape. Even so long ago as 1971, Super 8 was an old fashioned, essentially obsolete film medium. Jarman used it often and his particular way of employing Super 8 seemed to be focused on drawing attention to the medium itself. That is to say, his films were never meant to be a window onto a story; he opposed the notion that film could be a neutral medium. He was aware that the medium itself was already deeply implicated in whatever was being communicated. His use of Super 8 would often draw attention to the fact that film always exists within an ideological context which it has itself contributed to, and his oneiric, occult films were interventions in a wider struggle for (and against) control, with all of the connotations that William Burroughs brought to that word. Continue reading “A Journey to Avebury”