The Edge of the World
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As a poem of looming cliff sides and craggy human faces, of crashing waves and colliding sheep, The Edge of the World is unforgettable.Stuart Klawans, The Nation
John Laurie, Belle Chrystall, Eric Berry, Niall MacGinnis,
Scotland’s remote offshore isles provide the stark setting for Michael Powell’s windswept testament to human life on civilization’s edge, which combines the documentary approach of Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran with the romantic fatalism and poetry that would mark Powell’s later works. On the appropriately named island of Hirta (Norse for “death”), a community faces oblivion due to total isolation; grappling with the choice to remain or leave, two young men place a bet that may condemn them all. Powell and the actors and crew lived for months on the island of Foula (a stand-in for Hirta, whose real-life depopulation inspired the script); the locals provided the nonprofessional background cast, while the jagged sea cliffs, majestic skies, and constant storms lent the film its true star power. Combining silent-era techniques (iris shots, dramatic close-ups of faces) with documentary realism and Powell’s poet-sorcerer’s sense of beauty’s ruin, The Edge of the World is a film on death, isolation, and life on the precipice; it is rewarding viewing in any time, and especially in this time.