Stunning 1937 film set in the Shetland Islands, and filmed on the North Sea isle of Foula. Director Michael Powell has been called "the British John Ford", and you'll see why when you watch this film.
Based on a newspaper article the director once read, "The Edge of the World" is a heartbreaking documentary-style look at a phenomenon that really faced island-dwellers off the coast of Scotland in the 1930's and 40s.
On Hirta, the ficticious isolated coastal island, the fishing is becoming impossible thanks to the mainland trawlers and their huge nets. The peat the islanders harvest and sell for fuel is almost exhausted. The youth of the island are leaving in droves.
As a result, the islanders face a harsh choice; try to go on with their way of life, or give up everything and ask the government to relocate them on the mainland. There is bitter debate among the inhabitants, with part in favor of leaving, others wanting to fight on, and still more who are uncertain what to do.
While the acting may occasionally seem a bit overdone today, the real winner here is the outstanding photography done on location. Hills sweep up and end abruptly with sheer cliffs. The pounding sea sprays the rocks, and clouds sweep over the expanse of the island, leaving telling shadows on all below. There is also a truly heartstopping race as two men climb the sheer cliffs to decide questions between them.
This is an amazing and moving film that focuses on characters, with their odd beliefs, their customs, their culture threatened, and their whole way of life hanging in the balance.
After one viewing, you will never be able to leave this film behind. Truly an overlooked work, it is indespensible to the serious film buff and student.
Cheers to Milestone, who copied the film's recently restored 35mm print for this tape (and in SP mode, no less!). Until a Criterion DVD edition comes out, this is the best version you're likely to find of this wonderful film, and well worth the price.
The tape includes the twenty minute documentary "Return to the Edge of the World" in its entirety, as well as the Powell WW2 short subject, "An Airman's Letter to His Mother".