In 2007 Marc Isaacs made ”All White in Barking”, in 2020 “The Filmmaker’s House” and now “This Blessed Plot”. You should know, when reading this article that I am a big admirer of Isaacs having seen, loved and written about these three films. In many workshops and seminars we lucky mentors, who follow documentaries and documentarians always stress the importance of finding your own “handwriting”, your way of filmmaking, the “how” being much more important than the “what”. Form before content.
Marc Isaacs is a unique example of a filmmaker, who has found and developed his way of filmmaking outside the established British (television) formatted way of documentary storytelling. Together with Adam Ganz, who wrote the story, he has made “This Blessed Plot”, which has many layers and a beautiful way of dealing with Life and Death. With humour and compassion.
Here you will have my focus on the story that I enjoyed from start till end:
Lori is the smiling and curious young filmmaker, who comes to Thaxted, a town in Essex where the reverend Conrad Noel, a Christian socialist, was living – and was filmed in the ten minute long “Ripe Earth” from 1938 (https://eafa.org.uk/work/?id=2292)
The Red Priest, as he was called, talks to the Chinese young woman – and us the audience, who is introduced to the church and Christian Socialism in a sweet and loving tone that stays with the film the whole way through. Lori moves in with Maggie, who misses her deceased husband who is seen in archive material as an active dancer and accordion player during the feasts of the town. She talks to her teddy bears remembering Jim.
The most wonderful and charming meetings, however, are the ones between Keith Martin and Lori. A dedicated (an understatement) supporter of the football club Arsenal Keith has made a museum for his club in the house he lives in after leaving London. Keith was also in the two other films by Isaacs and he is a wonderful man, I would like to meet sharing his grief after the club missed the league championship they were about to win this year. “Beautiful football never dies”, Keith says in the film, I agree – as a fan of FC Barcelona (without a museum) and their coach Pep Guardiola. I am old enough to remember when the Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger was bringing glory to the club and know how patient and caring the coach was with Danish player Nicklas Bendtner, when he grew up in Arsenal. But that´s another story that comes to my mind meeting Keith again.
BUT the film is also about betrayal as Lori finds out – when Keith went to football, his good friend “Uncle” went to visit Sue, Keith’s late wife. She – appearing as a ghost – confesses that she has not been loyal – that word used – and “Uncle” is kicked out by Keith, when he has read Sue’s diaries. “Uncle”, who has been to jail, is now out with a bag full of money kept by Keith, who does not want to accept “Uncle”s suggestion to help cover his unpaid rent bills.
Lori observes with her camera and is being observed by Isaacs as the foreigner, representing us the viewers, getting into trouble, when she gets too close to Keith, you are a Jinx, he says to her… I don´t want to reveal the drama that unfolds in the small town of Thaxted, a divine place as we see in the film and in the 1938-film with the socialist priest Conrad Noel. A place, as mentioned, where also PPP shot some of his “Canterbury Tales”
Non-professional actors, a lovely story, told in a lovely unconventional way, emotional, sentimental in the good sense of the word, a dramatic comedy for a big audience I hope. And the music… by Gustav Holst who lived in Thaxted… contributing to the divine atmosphere!
UK, 2023, 75 mins.