Movie review by Peter Sørensen of
“A Place to Stay”
from Hollywood Daze Motion Pictures
I went to the advance screening of “A Place to Stay” in London ten days ago. Most croppies have heard about this film, which has a crop circle theme and was shot in Wiltshire last summer. It is superb!
Unlike that “other” movie, which features evil aliens making formations in fields of sweet corn -- you know, the flick made by The Mouse Company which is getting all the media attention -- this one is well worth seeing.
A Place to Stay has a romantic theme that grew on me, and the cinematography is beautiful (wait ‘till you see the time-lapse pan of the Pewsey Vale that ends in sunset over Tan Hill!). In addition to the lovers, there are villains (who get their come-uppance in unexpected ways), and a host of believable characters involved in overlapping sub-plots. And pioneering circle researchers, Busty Taylor, Colin Andrews and Reg Presley have cameo roles, playing themselves.
The story, set in the present in the Alton Barnes area (!), is seen through flashbacks in the mind of an old Wiltshire Country police officer (played by Johnny Dallas), who, riding around on his bicycle, is the one person who knows everybody and everything that is happening.
As someone who is practically a citizen of Alton Barnes, I must say I was aghast to see how the fictitious townsfolk were portrayed as intolerant simpletons, easily led by the hate tactics of the chief villain, Carl Streathan (played by Llewellyn St. David). Speaking like a Nazi in the town hall, Streathan inflames the villagers to evict the Gypsies and “Travelers” from the area. The real people of Alton Barnes wouldn’t stand for such bigotry and hatred. But of course this is simply a plot device, and I can accept it as such.
Streathan actually has a hidden agenda for removing the Travellers. [Americans note: Travellers are like Hippies who have rejected the establishment and move about the UK in old vans and house trailers, encamping wherever they can find a hidden spot in the countryside -- for practical purposes they are New Age Gypsies.] The Travellers are supposedly living atop Tan Hill, an ancient site, which a toxic waste company wants to use for a dump. In order for that to happen, the young people must first be removed under the pretence that they are a blot on the landscape.
One of the young men, Sean (Colm O’Maonlai), emerges as the hero of the story. Another of the travellers is a perky little girl who apparently has polio, because she wears a brace on her leg.
Camped in the lowland not far away are the Romany Gypsies, in particular a lovely woman, Jessie (Amanda Ray-King) who frequently rides bareback on a black and white mare, which is always followed by her high spirited little foal (a delight to watch!) The Gypsies, with their multi-thousand year tradition of living on the move, look down on the Travellers as unsavoury copycats. So when the woman first meets our hero, she wants nothing to do with him. But she happens to be married to a drunken old bastard who treats her badly at almost every turn -- and she’s loosing her patience!
But our lovers-to-be both like the crop circles. And the circles -- along with the little girl -- are the catalysts that bring the two together.
A major sub-plot involves a wealthy jerk [sorry, I can’t find a better word in my Thesaurus!] who lusts for the pretty Gypsy. He follows her when she goes riding, stalking her in his Land Rover. When he inevitably tries to force himself on her, Sean comes to the rescue.
But that’s as much as I’m going to reveal about the romance.
Another sub-plot involves a couple of American agents from Groome Lake (Area 51), who are also after our hero for reasons that aren’t really very clear. In fact I suspect that the primary reason for their presence in the story is to add an X-Files dimension to the film. I can see how this may help sell it to the movie-going public, but my feeling is the romance and the other parts of the story would have been better off without being sidetracked by the UFO, cloak-and-dagger stuff.
I must say there are some good computer graphics using photos of crop formations in the black ops computer centre. Many historic designs flash on the screen, overlapping and rotating as though correlations are being calculated.
Speaking of great effects, little more than wind machines were used to portray the manifestation of a crop circle around the woman and the little girl. The scene is absolute magic -- it brought tears to my eyes!
That particular formation was the “Missing Earth,” which was commissioned for the film and constructed by Matthew Williams and Co. in the East Field. (Matt was actually accused by a few lunatic fringe Believers of claiming a genuine circle as his. I also came under fire for declaring I had video’d its construction and could prove its human origin. It was implied there was some dark, nefarious purpose behind the whole business. [My footage of the construction is on my 2001 annual crop circle video, which -- pardon the advert -- is for sale thru the Crop Circle Connector.])
Speaking of circles that are in the motion picture, there’s a spectacular “crane shot” inside the Milk Hill “Galaxy,” which rises from a close up of the lovers, to show the vast expanse of the hundreds of circles in the field.
(Anyone who knows me is aware that I now believe that all the complex formations are made by human artists. I feel that a Vast Intelligence is behind the phenomenon, perhaps the Collective Unconscious -- perhaps something even more wonderful -- and I know that many of the artists are motivated by Spirit. And I also know from personal experience that strange lights and other mysteries are associated with the circles. So I’m still a true crop circle lover and researcher -- and this film really went straight to my heart!)
When the sceptical Vicar tells the old Policeman that he thinks the circles are made by the Gypsies and Travellers, and hence of no importance, the Bobby says it doesn’t matter. He points out that a lot of people are having spiritual experiences inside the formations -- much like the old Norman church where they are standing -- which inspires people to feel closer to Good. And the church, too, was made by people!
Three cheers -- Right on! Anyone who puts down these wonderful appearances in our fields, just because they aren’t flattened by ETs, is missing the point! And, just as bad, anyone who puts down the human circlemakers is missing a very similar point.
I’m also in agreement with Colin’s fine old message, which is heard during the end credits, to the effect that we are destroying our planet, and one interpretation of the circles is they are drawing our attention to this emergency. We must heed this wakeup call, for the Earth is our only Place to Stay!
After the screening hundreds of people crowded in the lobby to meet the cast. My eyes were still damp when I met the tough agent from Groome Lake and shook his hand -- he must think I’m a sissy! (Actually there was hardly a dry eye in the house at the end of the film, so I wasn’t alone.)
I am still chuckling from my encounter with the man who played the toxic waste villain, when I quipped to him, “Did you ever find your keys?” (You’ll get the joke when you see the movie.)
And I’m afraid I was as shy as a teen when I met Amanda, the beautiful Gypsy face to face -- I could do little more than mumble my congratulations!
I was especially pleased to have a nice chat with the writer/director/producer, Marcus Thompson. Marcus is a man who has done his utmost to put together a motion picture, at significant personal expense and time, which tells a good story involving the crop circles without sensationalism. And without getting hooked into the shallow debate about where they come from. He simply and beautifully conveys the wonder and magic, and the experience of being inside these magnificent temples of grain.
And here’s a tender little titbit: Marcus and Amanda got married at Pinewood Studios just after the movie was finished -- so there’s a romance within the romance!
A Place to Stay needs support and funding for distribution if it is going to be seen in theatres. I sure hope it succeeds -- the world needs a better view of the circles than that given us by Mickey Mouse!
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Peter Sørensen is a videographer who has been documenting the crop circles in England every summer for the past eleven years. Visit his web site at: http://cropcircleconnector.com/Sorensen/PeterSorensen99.html
[This review may be quoted in whole or in part, providing it is attributed to the author.]
© Sept. 14th, 2002 Peter Sorensen