❉ Writer/director John Harrigan on his folk-horror film, which hits Apple TV tonight.
Refugee gods, transposed to flesh and blood, wash ashore to rouse the myths of ancient England, half-drowned in a forgotten past. They disperse through shifting realities to awaken the giant Albion and find the holy grail in a ritual to save England from the rot of darkness and hatred that’s strangling its soul.
Written and directed by John Harrigan, Armageddon Gospels explores the cataclysmic effects of Brexit on the British landscape, a historic event that has sent reasonable people mad and turned neighbour against neighbour, shaking the foundations of what it means to be British.
Armageddon Gospels is his second feature film as a writer and director. The film follows in the footsteps of the hit drama-horror film, Strange Factories, released in 2013. Strange Factories toured the oldest independent cinemas in the UK from 2013 to 2014 as a special live cinema event, inspired by the phantasmagoria of the earliest cinematic touring shows.
“There are of course some rare and fine films which are both metaphorically and actually magical: much of the work of Kenneth Anger; Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. John Harrigan’s second film for Foolishpeople, Armageddon Gospels, can resolutely be added to this list.” Cat Vincent – The Daily Grail
2016 was a year of loss.
Armageddon Gospels was created in direct response to what occurred in 2016. On January the 10th, David Bowie died and on the 2nd of February, after a six year long demise into the darkness of Alzheimer’s, my mother died.
On the 23rd of June Britain voted to leave the European Union. The country of my birth gave way to racism and fascism, ideologies that existed in the seventies, as I grew up. The undigested racism, hatred and bile resurfacing to consume the land of my birth.
The same fear and hate I recognised from childhood, but not the truth of the place I call home. The rise of intolerance coincided with both deaths. My mind combined these events into a story about refugee gods, returning to search for the holy grail, in a ritual that might save the mythic landscape of England from the haunted presence of an entity called the Bone King.
The screenplay was written in an ecstatic state of mourning and grief. For the loss of my mum, my motherland and the loss of one of England’s greatest sons: David Bowie.
We shot ‘Armageddon Gospels’ over the course of the summer in 2016, in East Sussex on the South Downs, one of England’s most beautiful national parks.
The ideas and concepts, the sadness and loss was mirrored in communion with the most beautiful and quintessentially English location that I had ever worked within. As we shot each scene across the South Downs, the weather appeared to change and shift, mirroring the emotions I was experiencing. Albion was felt as a presence.In the midst of grief, the spirit of the land became a living partner in the creation of the film. Offering solace and a space to grieve for my mother and country. The foundations of my emotional connections to the land of my birth, that I felt all my life manifested as a genius loci, the spirit of a land, that produced my mother and Bowie. Slowly over the course of being on location and filming, ‘Armageddon Gospels’ replaced a part of my identity that was broken and damaged.
In ‘Armageddon Gospels’ a ritual takes place to honour and heal Albion of the Bone King’s sickness. We shot this scene at the feet of the Long Man of Wilmington, an immense hill
figure. The ritual was performed beneath the giant Albion himself, in a chalk field, on what appeared as the exposed bones of the land.
How a ritual led us to the foot of the long man of Wilmington
Within the narrative of ‘Armageddon Gospels’ a group of refugee gods, transposed to flesh and blood attempt to enact a ritual to save Albion from the Bone King.
FoolishPeople’s working practice is titled ‘Theatre of Manifestation’ and has been developed over the last twenty eight years. The foundations and basis for this practice is in ritual theatre. FP developed a ritual of its own, with the same intent as the ritual that takes place at the finale of the film.
This key ritual was enacted at the foot of the long man of Wilmington. A figure who is said to hold open a portal between worlds.
An audience of people began to congregate and watch as the ritual was performed by FoolishPeople. A man and woman who heard the sounds of the ritual from the other side of the hill and had followed them to find out what was happening, began to ask questions about the event they were witnessing. The woman was Jo Burke, an expert in the history of British Folk music. Jo would go on to score and compose the entire soundtrack to ‘Armageddon Gospels’, including the music which accompanies the ritual she was called to witness.
How we found the Holy Grail…
How we came to obtain the green stone, which signifies the Holy Grail in Armageddon Gospels is quite a story. One of England’s greatest actresses was kind enough to loan us a
piece of a 15 million year old meteorite.
In my own research while writing the screenplay for Armageddon Gospels l learnt that the Holy Grail was once thought to be a green stone. Possibly from a meteorite that landed in
the Czech Republic over 15 million years ago.
This Moldavite green crystal is found in only one area of the world. The meaning of the name Moldavite relates to the Moldau River in Czechoslovakia. A meteorite of enormous size and incredible impact is known to have crashed in the Czechoslovakian mountain region.
We spent a long time trying to find a fragment of Moldavite to use as the holy grail in the film. Just as I’d given up hope, the Holy Grail was kindly loaned to us by the amazing Pauline Collins (Kate Alderton who plays Aradia in Armageddon Gospels is her daughter|). A piece of Moldavite had come into her possession while shooting a film in Prague.
❉ Production company FoolishPeople release ‘Armageddon Gospels’ on Apple TV in the UK, the US and Canada on October 31st.
❉ News source: FoolishPeople.org. Founded in 1989, FoolishPeople are one of the earliest pioneers of immersive theatre in the UK.
❉ We Are Cult is not responsible for the content of this news release.