If you are not acquainted with the work of Andrew Kötting, Edith Walks will probably not be the best point of entry. He is an auteur filmmaker that constantly defies categorisation, continuing to push the boundaries of the medium and his latest release is no different. Accompanied by a motley crew comprised of a singer, musician, mummer and a pinhole cameraman, they walk 108 miles in five days, from Waltham Abbey in Essex, to St Leonards-on-Sea in East Sussex, following a route that King Harold is once said to have walked.
Shot using digital super 8 iPhones, the films rough cut style may not be to everyone’s preference, as the edits flit between archived footage of school children recreating the Battle of Hastings and Kötting’s merry band of men slowly heading towards their destination. Poetry, music and song are blended into an at times spellbinding pursuit of ancient English values. Along the way they stop off to talk with graphic novel writer Alan Moore, himself a self-professed student of the many myths that surround the life and death of King Harold. Kötting frequently refers back to this conversation in Moore’s garden, at times bending the audio to accentuate the odd spiritual essence that he evokes through this DIY approach.
Performance singer Claudia Barton takes on the role of Edith Swan Neck, dressed head to toe in the royal garb of the Normandy period. She embodies a character that most of us are not aware of, sometimes playfully and at other times seeming to channel the spirit of Harold’s wife, her white outfit drifting ghost-like through the English countryside, seen through the grainy vision of the filtered lens. They speak of a legend that the spirit of Harold still protects these isles, his dismembered body parts placed in far reaching corners of the country, waiting for his wife to return to reunite these elements that will signal the dawn of a new age.
This is more of an experiment than a nurtured feature film (or ramshackle, as Kötting himself describes it), running at a concise 60 minutes and 66 seconds, in reference to the year of the battle. Forgotten The Queen, a short by Andrews daughter, Eden, who suffers from Joubert syndrome, precedes the film, itself a wildly energised animated collage that draws on crackly old sampled vocals, music and poetry, weaving its own tale of King Harold. How much of Andrew Kötting's absurdest documentary is meant to be taken seriously is anyone’s guess, and while its freeform style flows from beguiling to confusion, Edith Walks is not a film that is easily forgotten.