8 January 2021

Andrew Kötting's This Filthy Earth (2001)


Andrew Kötting's second film throws us into a frightening world set, I'd say, in at an unknown English place sometime in the first half of the twentieth century. It relentlessly pursues the unbelievable violence, prejudice and wilful ignorance in a self-isolating (yes, I know that word is now overused!) rural community where lust for money, sex and drink are the ruling desires, but not necessarily in that order.

No compromises are made here, and I can only shudder to think what an awful mess Hollywood would have made of this.  The elderly farmer father (Dudley Suttton) is very difficult to get on with (as are most of the characters here. His daughters Kath (Demelza Randall)  and Francine (Rebecca Palmer) work on the farm and the brutish Buto (Shane Attwooll) essentially marries Kate as he is after the property, and indeed begins to declare to most people shortly after marriage that it's his land. As for Kath, well, she's just grateful for a regular sex life. Oh, and Buto's brother is always drunk but has the nickname of 'Jesus Christ' because of his dark long hair and his beard.

Loosely based on Zola's novel La Terre, this is a grim world full of dirt, terrible weather and almost universal piggish behaviour. In fact apart from the weather, I was very much reminded of Adoul's Le Souffle.

Francine is touching though, as is the Russian farmhand Lek (Xavier Tchili), who is inevitably the brunt of so many racist insults. It's Lek who's the most competent of the whole bunch, but as the outsider he's also deeply hated and is the village scapegoat: if anything goes wrong, he's the cause.

I could write quite an amount on this devastating naturalistic movie, but suffice to say that it's a gem.

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