Sumptuously photographed and infused with snippets of fiercely beautiful Welsh poetry, HEDD WYNN is the true story of a country bard who gave his life in WWI as he was on the verge of national prominence. Oscar-nominated for best foreign film (a first for the country of Wales), this
breathtaking movie draws reserves of strength and nostalgia from its use of language. Like John Huston's THE DEAD (1987), it's an elegy to a past that lives again through a writer's enduring words.
Tilling the soil of his family farm and keeping marriage-minded lasses like Lizzie (Sue Roderick) at arm's length, Ellis Evans (Huw Garmon) dreams of winning the poetry prize at the National Eisteddfod. He uses the pen name of Hedd Wynn.
Fun-loving Ellis leads an idyllic existence with his large family and good pals Griff (Gruffuld Aled) and Morris Davies (Emlyn Gomer). Unlike his teenage brother, Bob (Ceri Cunnington), Ellis opposes the Great War as British conscriptors descend on the Welsh countryside.
Dismissed by Lizzie, who brands him a coward, Ellis keeps company with the serious-minded Jini Owen (Judith Humphreys) and forges a platonic bond with the local schoolmarm, who encourages his career as his confidence erodes. Despite his parents' hardship pleas, Ellis is drafted. Thrust into the
service, he shucks off his callowness and sets his tortured feelings down on paper. Although his superior officer puts up roadblocks, Ellis submits his most ambitious ode to the National Poetry Committee.
Like Griff and hundreds of fellow countrymen, Ellis doesn't survive the front lines of battle. Ironically, after receiving notification of their son's death, the Evanses also learn that Ellis has posthumously won the National Poetry Competition, a glittering prize that eluded him in his lifetime.
His final ode synthesizes arguments against war and immortalizes the dead poet's talent.
Leisurely paced and photographed as if each shot were the cinematographer's last, HEDD WYNN is a surpassingly eye-filling biography. It is both a tribute to this poet-soldier's indomitability and an immaculate reproduction of a vanished pastoral way of life, a world whose innocence was destroyed
by WWI. Structured artfully around shots of the fallen-in-battle Ellis nursing wounds and memories, HEDD WYNN moves effortlessly between his unfettered past and Ellis's final rites of wartime passage.
But the movie's abiding passion and strongest asset stems from the waves of Hedd Wynn's rapturous poetry, unforgettable because the poet had a facility for capturing human experience in sensuous, illuminating ways. It's also depressing, because that gift was snuffed out prematurely. However, the
film suggests that, in some way, Ellis Evans' war experience liberated a facet of his expressive power and transformed him from neophyte to mature talent in a short time. Thus, HEDD WYNN is a pacifist tract whose most crucial diatribe against war concerns the gift of poetry sacrificed in the
A bit overlong, HEDD WYNN repeats expository material that impedes the inevitable march to the battlefield-graveyard. Aiming for moody tristesse, the film weakens its melancholy by not being selective enough about events from Ellis's past. Some are not vital to this necessarily compressed
The biggest bonus of this splendidly acted saga is the glorious Welsh language, in which transcendent poetry seems but a small remove from everyday discourse. The true hero of the movie is this writer's legacy of language molded into art. (Violence, extreme profanity, extensive nudity, sexualsituations, adult situations, substance abuse.)
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- Released: 1995
- Rating: NR
- Review: Sumptuously photographed and infused with snippets of fiercely beautiful Welsh poetry, HEDD WYNN is the true story of a country bard who gave his life in WWI as he was on the verge of national prominence. Oscar-nominated for best foreign film (a first for… (more)