Fig. 1. The Wicker Man Poster
The Wicker Man focuses on the story of a Scottish police officer, Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) who is a devote Christian. The film opens up with the sergeant flying an airplane around the desolate isles of Scotland letting the audience soak up the surroundings in which the film will take place. Back at the station Howie is ridiculed for being a virgin due to his faith and also his uptight character. He receives a letter about a missing girl, Rowan Morrison, and asks for his assistance in locating her at Summerisle, a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
Right from the start Hardy sets out to create the mood that drives the rest of the film. Flying around in the seaplane at the start wasn’t just for show, it acts as a film device to show just how isolated that region is, to make the audience feel out of place in a strange world. Hardy then shows Sgt. Howie’s rigid religious standing and his stature as a loyal righteous police officer.
When the sergeant lands at Summerisle nothing out of the ordinary stands out but then the audience starts to catch a bit of strangeness when all of the locals seem oblivious to the fact that Rowan has gone missing. This sets in a state of uneasiness, the audience knows that a letter came from the village about the girl but now no one even knows about her. Next the person whom Sgt. Howie thinks is the supposed missing girl’s mother doesn’t acknowledge the girls existence either. At this point the uncanny factor is starting to rise within the audiences mind, all of the village people seem suspicious but at the same time you start to wonder if the letter was even real.
Fig. 2. The Villagers
Sergeant Howie soon realises that the entire isle has abandoned Christianity and practices the old Pagan traditions. “From the moment he arrives he is assailed by images of paganism, children dance round maypoles while the schoolteacher lectures on its phallic significance; sore throats are cured by holding toads in the mouth; naked girls jump over fires in fertility rituals” (Smith, 2006), all of these things which mock Howie’s religion and his rigid ways. In a sense Howie is alienated from the rest of the village for being normal and at the same time being wrong, this creates an uncanny tension within the film because although the villagers and the village itself seem normal there is still something off putting, like something bad is happening behind the scenes.
Fig. 3. Phallic Symbolism
All the while Sergeant Howie is being distracted by all of the Paganism, the old traditions, freedom of love, and sex, he can’t seem to get any closer to finding Rowan. All of the villagers, despite their Pagan ways, act innocent or better yet, just contain a lack of guilt towards the supposed abduction of the girl. This lack of guilt and lack of caring towards something so serious creates an odd atmosphere that drives the audience towards the uncanny.
In the final moments of the film the true theme of religion really makes an appearance as Howie is about to be burned alive, “The culture war between the libertines advocating free love and the uptight Christian establishment advocating censorship, comes to a cruel ending” (Schwartz, 2006). It feels as though the Pagan ways of sacrificial rituals should be a myth but clearly on this little isle it exists in its entirety. The film ends in an unresolving clash between two faith systems and leaves the audience wondering if it could be possible that somewhere in the world there is such a strange village.
Fig. 4. The Ending
Smith, A. (2006) EMPIRE At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/reviewcomplete.asp?DVDID=7892 (Accessed on 20.03.12)
Schwartz, D. (2006) Ozus’ World Movie Reviews At: http://homepages.sover.net/~ozus/wickerman1973.htm (Accessed on 20.03.12)
Fig. 1. Robin Hardy (1973) The Wicker Man Poster At: http://www.soundonsight.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/600full-the-wicker-man-poster.jpg (Accessed on 20.03.12)
Fig. 2. The Villagers (1973) From: The Wicker Man Directed by: Robin Hardy [film still] UK: British Lion Films At: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=501 (Accessed on 20.03.12)
Fig. 3. Phallic Symbolism (1973) From: The Wicker Man Directed by: Robin Hardy [film still] UK: British Lion Films At: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=501 (Accessed on 20.03.12)
Fig. 4. The Ending (1973) From: The Wicker Man Directed by: Robin Hardy [film still] UK: British Lion Films At: http://www.ferdyonfilms.com/?p=501 (Accessed on 20.03.12)