To Kill a King by Alan Garner


This is a very curious short film I’d not come across before, the final entry in Leap in the Dark, a series of half-hour supernatural dramas and documentaries broadcast by the BBC from 1973 to 1980. To Kill A King could be viewed as a supernatural piece although it’s more of a psychodrama with writer Harry (Anthony Bate) struggling to maintain contact with his spectrally visible muse after a long period of inactivity. Bate is a familiar face from TV drama of this period, often playing government officials, memorably so in his role as Oliver Lacon for the BBC’s two George Smiley serials. Jonathan Elsom and Pauline Yates play Harry’s secretary and sister, neither of whom are very sympathetic to Harry’s predicament or to each other.

What’s odd about the film is that it seems to be a partial self-portrait of its author: the house where Harry lives is either Garner’s own or one very like it, close to the Jodrell Bank radio telescope on the Cheshire Plain; Garner has spoken about the years of deep depression that prevented him from writing. If these details are circumstantial there’s a brief shot of the Carnegie Medal that Garner was awarded for The Owl Service in 1967. The whole film is so hermetic and inaccessible it seems to have been written more as an act of personal exorcism (or perhaps of evocation) rather than anything intended as mere entertainment. Watch it here.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Red Shift by Alan Garner

3 thoughts on “To Kill a King by Alan Garner”

  1. Hi Marly. Yes, those things don’t have to be negatives, they’re only seen that way in the television world where everything is oriented towards mass entertainment. The BBC in the 1970s was oriented in that direction, of course, but there was also a rare latitude given to works such as this, something that vanished altogether in the 1980s.

  2. Thought it sounded like some kind of a fit–my 2014 novel has a self-styled “failed painter” who chases what she thinks of as the muse in a forest. Thanks for the link!

Comments are closed.

Discover more from { feuilleton }

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading