DVD REVIEW: An inventive, fun and oddly charming film about the Tales of Albion

The Noon of the Solstice. Picture by Craig Matthews, courtesy of Egotrip Media Ltd
The Noon of the Solstice. Picture by Craig Matthews, courtesy of Egotrip Media Ltd

Tales of Albion, Egotrip Media, out now on DVD, £16.99

From what I’ve heard it’s not easy to get a movie made.

And a fantasy film is particularly tricky, what with all the make-up, special effects and wild rural locations needed.

Add a very modest budget into the mix and you could have the recipe for a cinematic disaster on your hands.

But, as Lord of The Rings fan flicks like The Hunt for Gollum have shown (made for around £3,000), fantasy on a budget can be surprisingly good.

This is certainly the case with Tales of Albion, a collection of eight shorts exploring the weird and wonderful myths of Britain.

Horley director Gary Andrews and his crew, working over a four-year period, have clearly put a lot of effort into this project and it’s paid off.

Filmed mainly in the Sussex countryside, Tales of Albion is an intense and quirky experience that has an appealing mystical, pagan vibe.

That’s not to say it’s perfect though.

Some of the acting comes across a little flat (despite some strong performances) and a couple of musical montages feel overly sentimental.

However, overall it’s pretty darn entertaining.

The best bits are the battle scenes, which are thrilling to watch as fearsome warriors – both male and female – hack and slash at each other in savage fury.

The sound effects in the fight sequences are particularly effective, with each stab and blow highlighting the brutality of the combat.

It’s not all chest-thumping and warfare though – the individual tales are very diverse and each offers something unique.

In ‘The Noon of the Solstice’, for example, a girl gives three children an imaginative explanation for why the seasons change.

In ‘Curses and Secrets’, we see a figure from Welsh mythology, Arianrhod, attempt a magical revenge for one bizarrely humiliating experience at the King’s court.

In ‘Dreaming the Dream’, Robin Goodfellow (aka Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) takes William Shakespeare on a nocturnal journey to help him overcome his writer’s block.

‘Dreaming the Dream’ is easily the funniest (and probably the strongest) tale in the film, blending surreal comedy with its lush visuals to create a convincingly magical atmosphere. There’s even an enchanting ‘Fairy Lullaby’ by symphonic rock/pop group Eleanore & the Lost with Eleanore herself appearing as Cobweb.

As expected, the other tales contain gods, spirits, witches (both good and bad) and well-known figures from British legends. Gary Andrews himself appears as a certain famous wizard.

The one aspect that really makes this film stand out though is the animation.

Gary Andrews has used his background as a TV animation director to his advantage and includes ornate, apparently hand-drawn animated sequences that are amusing, charming and often quite eccentric.

The drawings provide a low-budget way to convey the more magical sights, like humans transforming into animals, but they also help give the film an ancient feel.

‘Curses and Secrets’ takes the animation a step further by augmenting real-life footage with patterns and brush strokes.

Whether people like the way this looks is down to personal taste, but the technique definitely gives the tale a suitable storybook appearance.

In conclusion then, I recommend checking this film out.

It’s refreshing to see an independent crew come up with a movie so different to the predictable mainstream fare.

And, for those who are unfamiliar with the myths of these islands, Tales of Albion offers a great introduction to them.

To find out more about the film or purchase your own copy click here.

To read out interview with director Gary Andrews click here.

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