BBC Countryfile Magazine
The director discusses her feature-length film Drawn to War, about landscape artist Eric Ravilious
What drew you to Eric Ravilious, his work and life story?
I grew up in Eric Ravilious country, holidaying with my grandparents in Sussex. I got to know the chalk landscape by walking there, climbing up the Long Man of Wilmington, an image that inspired Ravilious. As a child I had a Wedgewood Ravilious alphabet mug, plate and bowl, used every day, so his work is very familiar. Later, I was drawn to his incredible war work. I’m also an artist and work in watercolours, too.
Why did you tell the story of his life in a semi-dramatised way?
When his family gave me their blessing to direct the first-ever major film of his life, I used his correspondance as the basis of my screenplay, so that an actor could perform his words. I wanted the film to give a deeper understanding of his character, by combining the work and life into one emotional journey. Hearing what he wrote gives a path to understanding his work, which can be enigmatic. The contemporary artists and writers, too, frame the Ravilious story from a present-day perspective.
What did the work of artist Tirzah Garwood, Ravilious’s wife, bring to the story?
I wanted his artist wife Tirzah Garwood to have a voice and her autobiography, Long Live Great Bardfield, lent itself perfectly to adaptation. The overall story structure is a conversation between them. The whole film is the portrait of a marriage at a time of great change, from peace into war.
What do you think is Ravilious’s lasting legacy?
His work portrays a unique sense of Englishness. He was hard up all his life and took all the work going, so we have a really wide range of mediums, from books to to pre-war ‘Beautiful Britain’ propaganda. He loved painting the chalk figures of the English downlands and wanted to be remembered for this series. Ravilious is just as brilliant as Turner, Constable and Hockney, the all-time greats of British landscape.
Eric Ravilious: Drawn to War is touring cinemas. For dates, see dartmouthfilms.com Or watch on demand: homecinema.curzon.com