2005 - PG - 24 Mins.
|Director: Mick Fairbridge
|Producer: Mick Fairbridge
|Written By: Mick Fairbridge
|Starring: Edward Hocking, Alan Palmer, Mick Fairbridge, Darren Watkins
|Review by: Jennie Kermode
|Official Site: www.baronlands-thefilm.co.uk/
In recent years, the concept of 'independent film' has started to go the way of 'indie music', with many films which lack big studio backers nevertheless being built on solid financial foundations. Whilst there's nothing wrong
with this, it's interesting to see what's happening at the end of the market
where film-makers really are going it alone.
Writer/director Mick Fairbridge, a former coal miner, remortgaged his home in order to realise his dream of making this medieval comedy adventure 'The Baron.' Though crewed by professionals, the film has a cast of first-time actors and the stunts are all their own.
'The Baron' follows the adventures of Sir Percivere and Sir Cole, two knights charged with ridding the land of a band of thugs led by the ambitious title character. It is aimed squarely at a family audience, with farcical elements which will appeal strongly to young children, though some of the jokes may be over-familiar to adults. Featuring cameos from Robin Hood, the Lady in the Lake and a mysterious damsel in distress, the film is a veritable tour of traditional British fantasy.
Clearly the production team had a lot of ideas they wanted to include, but the film is only twenty five minutes long, and its hectic jumping around between story elements is a bit overwhelming. This problem is exacerbated by the shortness of many scenes and the abruptness of scene changes. Caption cards (or scrolls) filling in plot details are overused. It would have been interesting to see what Fairbridge might have achieved if he'd had the time and money to develop all these ideas fully.
For first-time actors, the two leads here are very impressive, with good comic timing. Most of the supporting performances are solid enough, though the King (apparently a last minute casting choice) is more wooden than the surrounding forest. Horse riding scenes are beautifully handled, and great use is made of the dramatic Welsh landscape, helping to give the story a more expansive feel. Most of the costuming is also very good, though tents and banners look a little too clean to be convincing, contrasting with the earthy nature of the script.
There's a lot of focus on physical comedy. Unfortunately, the director's inexperience shows through in the fight scenes, which, despite some good swordsmanship, never quite convince. It's also difficult to believe that a king and a baron would be escorted by such small armies; the story might have worked better if it had been moved down the feudal system a notch or two.
Like many low-budget films, 'The Baron' is let down by its music. Specially composed themes work well enough, but the incidental music is clumsy and shows its age. Despite these flaws, however, 'The Baron' is an impressive first time effort which many fans of the fantasy genre may find entertaining, and it suggests that Fairbridge may be one to watch in the future.